June 10, 2018

Alexandra Umlas

REMEMBERING YOU, ANTHONY BOURDAIN, AT THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TALENT SHOW

Most of these kids have yet to try sushi,
haven’t left the country to taste the world,
still gravitate toward boxed macaroni
and cheese, but someday they might turn
on the TV to see you eat some strange food,
and witness the uneasy thrill of trying,
trying, trying something new.
This morning, at the elementary school,
an audience gathered between construction-
papered walls and a talent show began:
a boy played clear notes from a recorder,
a girl tap-danced across the carpeted floor,
someone sang, played the piano, delivered
a comedy skit full of terrible knock-knock
jokes followed by a drum’s bada-ba,
then applause. You knew how to savor
an experience, how sitting with strangers
makes friends, that what we put in our mouths
matters—you pointed out the thread
spooled between us when we have a meal
together, the connection that takes place over
coffee or beer. This morning, after hearing
you were gone from this world, my daughter
danced on the stage, nervously taking a seat
at the table of the unknown. You would
have approved of these kids practicing
the art of taking risks. Someday
they might hear your voice and give up
using jarred garlic or eating in restaurants
on Mondays; or maybe they will recognize
that to taste is to experience, to try
means to live, or they will think back
to this elementary school talent show,
to this morning, where in the kindergarten
classroom, the chicks chirp under a warming
light. Where, just days ago, the children pressed
their faces to the glass as the eggs began to crack,
and from the shells emerged the broken,
scattered singing of new life.

from Poets Respond

__________

Alexandra Umlas: “Friday morning, the morning we all found out Anthony Bourdain was dead at 61, I attended the talent show at my daughter’s elementary school. I watched the kids with a mixture of sadness and joy—remembering Bourdain’s wonderful curiosity. He had the kind of excitement for life that kids naturally have and that we often lose as adults.” (web)

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