What My Father Eats

Barely anything, but when he does feel a pang
he opens the freezer and reaches for any one

of many meals my mother prepared and froze
until the day she tumbled to the kitchen floor

and did not rise again. The orange-tinted arroz con pollo,
dated September 1, straight from the Dragone

ricotta cheese container, scrubbed and re-used
so many times that the graphic of the dragon

has almost vanished. The stuffed green peppers
with ground beef, dated October 4, from the recycled

Cool Whip container. The caldo gallego from the
Land O’ Lakes margarine tub, the same caldo

that his mother taught my mother how to make
right after they were married and right before

my grandmother was driven wild with her own pathetic
maladies. He takes one meatball at a time

from the Dannon yogurt container, then drops it
into the saucepan as he waits for the spaghetti

to boil and soften in a separate saucepan as per
the directions on the Prince spaghetti box.

He eats the already-breaded-and-baked chicken
even though, once defrosted, it’s a little soggy,

even though he never cared for the way
she did that, cooking and then freezing foods

that would have been much tastier when fresh, even though,
once retired, she had the time to cook from scratch.

Whatever crystals have formed, no matter how long
the food has been stored there, whatever mist

of halogenated hydrocarbons emanates
from the freezer when he opens the door, it is always

a relief to the heat of his grieving, but perhaps even greater
is the sight of her handwriting, there

on the tiny strips of white paper, Scotch-taped
to each recycled container. The Palmer method

that she had learned from the nuns as a girl;
the careful grip on the fountain pen’s nib;

the pressure on the point after dipping, the strong
connecting strokes, the body of each character,

the curved back of her majiscule Ds, the strong head
of one O, the small foot of another, the arms

of her Ls and Ts extending upward, the stubby legs
of her small Ns. In every ascender and descender

the rhythmic push-and-pull of each loop,
the profound legibility of her hand.

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