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QUINTESSENCE

Salt and the Chipped Cup

SALT
And so the ritual begins at breakfast
again, where you don't want to love
the person you love. You spread jam
on the bread. You stare hard at the juice.
Your chin sets for the day.
You read the newspaper, grunting
with concern but you keep silent,
unwilling, afraid you'll forgive
if you gaze up at his eyes so instead
you look at his hands. He sips coffee in that
same way. Fingers skilled and not unkind,
touching and embracing the chipped cup,
elbow lifted up and out. Sweet, you think,
but no. You won't give up your anger.
The only part of you still burning. No,
as old as you are you must save yourself.
It's hot and bright in the kitchen.
Between you is too raw,
too far from the thing you once were.
Between you, on the table,
on a yellow plate, surrender is waiting -
you salt it and you eat it.
- Bonnie Bolling

I was taken by the love extant within the contained, unspoken fierceness of this poem. The very real sacrifice of the self to togetherness. Here is the core of tenderness nested in the prickliness of disagreement. The pettiness of the rebuff. And yet also the innocence in which love sees the beloved. The way in which we forgive and surrender, again and again. And still the self burns, hot and bright.

A poet that can take a moment from any relationship and make it universal, speak to the tenderness in anger, the solace in hot unbreachable retreat, speak of the self that defies togetherness and the binding of time, the complex meaning of all things from salt to chipped cups... These are the poets that inhabit our lives. Whose words offer more than expressions of observation or direction. Ordinary words that paint pictures from emotion, give wings to what moves us, grounds what crackles with heat.

Salt, as it turns out, is my favorite spice. I relish the deliciousness, the bite. Sea salt in a little dish beside the chipped cup.


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