“Folding” by Jim Tilley

Jim Tilley


He stares blankly at Rosalie’s longhand legacy
to her daughter, Crisco thumbprints smearing some
of the India ink. His wife’s away and his daughter

waits for her Sunday pancakes as he puzzles over
“Fold buttermilk and an egg into the dry ingredients.”
No hints, merely a warning. Through Rosalie,

he’s learned that major perils attend misfolding,
that proteins stuck mid-stream, half-folded on the way
to proper states, can transform a normal brain

into bubbly batter with lumps. His wife’s taught him
how to fold only laundered shirts and sheets,
items he often burns while ironing out problems,

but never chars like the toast they have to eat today.
He unfolds the morning paper, sits down with his black
coffee to digest the Week in Review, and notes,

as he reads about the latest bombings, that recipes
don’t always turn out right, that sometimes it may be
better to fold, even for the Master Chef.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004


Jim Tilley: “Every time I read a poem by Carl Dennis, I wish I’d written it. I strive to write, in a style as accessible as his, about the human condition of ordinary people: for instance, a cooking-challenged man trying to make pancakes for his daughter from his mother-in-law’s handed-down recipe on a Sunday morning when the world news features, as usual, acts of terrorism.” (website)

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