Sustenance

If you send me something about
a mound of lentils,
I will be intrigued.

— Naomi Shihab Nye

The mound of lentils, freshly washed, dripped in a gray aluminum colander in the sink while his father did magic with the stock-pot: bouillon cubes, barley, carrots, half-moons of celery, fat tomato chunks, the translucent petals of yellow onion, the rich mystery of spices. Above the sink, elm branches crazed the west-facing window, sifted the bleak last light as it drained away beyond the broken wall of peaks. February? Early March? Still winter for sure. (It’s winter where his father’s grave steeps in the rain of other mountains, in a future that is now and yet seemed so remote then — impossible, in fact.) He lifted the colander and shook the lentils into the pot, quelling its boil, then stirred and stirred with a long wooden spoon until the broth was roiling again. He turned the burner knob to low and laid the lid in place. Soon enough they’d all sit down at the blue Formica table, the bowls and spoons already set out, and breathe in the earthy steam. The night window would be cloudy then, thick with the mist of sustenance that hid the darkness from them.

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