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Clam ChowderLove Slave

The phone rings
as I’m vortexed inlethargy
how to spend a lazysummer evening. 
She says,
“Are the pots allclean?
I’m coming over. 
We’re going to cook.”
“Cook what?”
“You’ll see.”
I wash the pots.
All of them. 
The sun is 30 degreesup in the western sky.

She shows up,
pounding once,
her whole body,
back first,
onto my door.
I let her in.
Her Granville IslandMarket bags
overflow her arms.
She sighs
and grits her teeth
and squeezes out,
White wine—now.”
I comply.
Apparently tonight
I’m her clam chowderlove slave.
Who am I to argue.
The sun dives
[at sun speed]
towards the westernhorizon clouds.

The clams have therich vibrancy
of self-sacrificingliving mollusks
waiting for the perfectopportunity
to give themselves
for us tonight.
I’m to rinse theselovely clams.
Not TOO much though.
A certain amount ofsand is to be expected
—and welcomed!
She says,
“Think of FromHere to Eternity.”
Okay. I do.
Really, I do.
The sun eases intothe western horizon clouds.

The baby nugget potatoes
AREN’T to be peeled.
Just washed.
With my hands, nobrush.
“Cut them into quarters,
and take off yoursandals,” she says.
She’s lounging onthe bed
with her feet up
on the floor pillows
that rest on the footof the bed.
I didn’t have time
to put it up
into the couch.
She rests her chilledglass
against her neck
between sips.
Her sandals
are long gone.
Her toenails are mauve.
God help me.
The sun is gone
as a pink wash
around the westernhorizon.

“Fry the bacon
over one-third heat,” 
she mumbles
with her eyes closed.
Her white light cottonzippered sweater vest
is gone
leaving just her [mainly]burgundy paisley silk camisole.
It isn’t the sometimeleaning forward
to check on my progress.
It’s the leaning back.
The arching of theback,
combined with
arms stretch
or coy gravity plummet
of the right strap
off her shoulder.
Midnight blue
creeps up from theeast horizon.

“No shirts allowed,bud,
for the mixing phase.
That’s the law.”
“Yes, constable.”
She rises,
dips her finger
into the remainingwine
and flicks it in myface.
“More wine,”
she growls.
I pour.
Actual stars
appear out the window,
despite the city’slight pollution.

“Shorts off
for the simmering,”
she states,
merely matter-of-factly,
as if she’d said,
“You’re almost outof eggs,” or,
“I forgot my hat athome.”
When I turn,
her tennis skirt
has vanished
to reveal
my missing Daffy Ducksilk boxers.
I was going to wearthem tonight,
until I discoveredtheir absence,
so faded cotton boxersbeckoned me.
I’m to stir
the complicated chowder
after she explainedto me,
in intricate detail,
the precise spicesand fine ingredients
—from memory!
My ire rises in jealousy
of the last one [ones?]
to make her chowder.
Just breathe and stir.
Breathe and stir.
Days go by as I stir
and she returns tolie down,
eyes closed,
both hands resting
the base of her wineglass
on her belly.
Thunderclouds appear
out of nowhere.

Months have passed.
Her wine’s done andrefilled.
She’s setting out
candles and cutlery
on the coffee table.
And wow! a glass ofwine
for ME.
She’s down to monosyllabicutterances now:
I scoop,
transport the bowlsover,
spoon the rich soup
into her mouth
as she sits cross-legged,
wiggling her mauvetoes,
eyes closed,
sometimes holdingonto the spoon
with her teeth
a little too long.
But then,
how long is the RIGHTlength to hold?
Extricating the clams
from the brothy shells
takes some time,
but she shows patience.
Whenever I try
to have a spoonfulmyself,
she opens her eyes
and stares daggers
at the moving spoon.
When I return to priorities,
her eyes close again.
I take to overloadingthe spoon,
sipping the excess
and giving her therest.
If she knows,
she doesn’t let on.
I guess
this is within thebounds
of the permissible.
The lightning
grows closer,
gets brighter,
and we start hearingthunder
as hints and murmurs.

Her bowl’s done.
she whispers.
My bowl
begins to empty next.
I’m hungrier,
so as I steal
from her spoon
a little more eachtime,
she gets less,
but no eyes open,
no complaints register.
Her toes drift now
in an ebbing and flowingmanner.
The thunder rumbles
the windows now
as lightning silhouettesthe buildings
across the way.
The CD,
which I never noticedeven being on,
stops abruptly.
I don’t even remember
what was playing.
Candlelight only
glows in apartmentliving rooms
and bedrooms
across the way.
As the clouds passover my block,
the lightning daylightsthe room
and rattles the candleholders.

One scoop left.
I’m dead now.
I give her the wholething,
almost apologetically,
then I wait.
Is she a preying mantis?
Must I run for cover?
Just go do the dishes
to avoid her wrath?
Take out the garbage?
Clean out the crispers
in the bottom of thefridge?
She opens her eyes
and says merely,
She lies back,
grabbing my hand,
pulling me to lieon my side
next to her.
She slides my righthand
under her camisole,
resting it over hernavel
[studless tonight]
with her hand
over mine,
sliding my hand
in slow   tight circles
as her breath
rises and falls,
ebbs and flows.
She turns her head,
places her nose asidemine
and whispers,
as the thunder rollsnorth
and the remnants
of the lightning air
stay inside the window,
and mix with the saltchowder scent
in a warm front
above the bed.

Copyright 2002, StephenBuckley 

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