EATING MASHED POTATOES
First, with his fork my father would
mix in the steaming Del Monte peas
my mother was so fond of in those days.
With the side of his knife
he’d square the edges, flatten the top.
Then he’d cut the sides off his sirloin
or his languid strip of pot roast
and eat these first, leaving
on the blue china plate
only two squares, unexpectedly
stunning in their own way,
lone rafts on a quiet lake.
If he’d been a child of five
his parents may have marveled
at his knowing
a square was a square.
If fifteen they would have told him
to stop playing with his food.
When he was thirty, forty, fifty,
I was the child in the family, and this
only one of his simple eccentricities.
Today, at eighty-five, he stares
into the white mass before him
on its Melmac plate
and does not lift the spoon
from its place on the tray
they gave him. I tell myself
it could be the mashed moon,
for all he knows.
Then he looks at me
and asks for a knife.
—from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Andrea Hollander: “I’ve come to believe that in order to matter, poems must be both entertaining and useful—entertaining by being rooted in the human traditions of telling stories and making music; useful by disturbing our lives enough to reinforce our humanness. These are the kinds of poems I endeavor to write.” (web)