I’ve been writing since I was eight, despite being told that I shouldn’t. Writing revealed too much. This is why I tell my students they should never be afraid to put the truth on the page. I’m a community college English professor, who alternately loves and despairs of her students (read the assignment!). I’ve written lots of different things—newspaper columns, academic stuff, poems (including two chapbooks and a full-length collection) and two mystery novels, both published by Barking Rain Press. I have the very great pleasure of serving the town of Norwalk, Connecticut, as its poet laureate. At this very moment, my dog is sniffing through my trash for a draft of something to chew on. My website: www.laurelpeterson.com
In the magazines, the women have long locks that drift across
their dry, smooth shoulders, tank tops to show off
their perfect breasts, pure white teeth, and come-on smiles.
They are seated in grape-vined bowers, adoring men
with swept-back bangs hanging on their every word.
These women have magically conjured a feast for twenty-five
without breaking a sweat, yelling at a toddler, spattering tomato seeds
or confectioner’s sugar or pasta dough on their pristine,
skin-tight jeans. Their men, of course, man some version of fire,
over which lean meats drip glorious amounts of glistening fat,
topped by still-green herbs. The sun lolls in the sky, not too hot,
so their precious foreheads don’t pearl with sweat. No mosquito
or fly lives within a thousand miles, and should one blunder by,
he is easily deterred with imported glass-domed food covers.
Pete never burns the locally sourced T-Bone and Aunt Sara isn’t
out behind the rose bush sucking small batch designer gin
from her flask between pinching cheeks like fresh peaches.
No one arrives late—or has to sleep it off upstairs
in the guest room decorated quaintly with wood-fired pottery
and wildflowers picked that very afternoon by cream-skinned
children wearing clean satin ribbons in their strawberry blond locks.
In the magazines, the guests eat from hand-thrown ceramics
using hand-forged flatware, and drink from Baccarat or Simon Pearce.
The dog under table doesn’t suddenly lunge up,
shaking to the bricks the dish with twenty-one ingredients,
each separately prepared before being carefully combined.
The stove doesn’t malfunction at the last minute, so that the pasta
is cooked at the neighbors’ and trundled across the meadow
wrapped in a linen towel. And last night, before everyone
arrived, Hugh and Ann didn’t have an epic fight about his family
always coming for three weeks in the middle of the summer,
and expecting her to wait on them while they toured vineyards
and Roman ruins and generally lounged about on the terrace
drinking Campari and hoping for bites of locally grown and cured prosciutto,
while their children’s shrieks echoed unremittingly off the Tuscan stone.
No, in the magazine, the pavers beneath the table are weed-free and swept clean.
No one is tired or lonely. No one sees the camera set-up, the hours
the models spent with stylists, that the food isn’t actually food,
but instead food-like for the lens. It’s all for the camera that loves
the fantasy and doesn’t care that those of us who might attempt
this extravaganza would emerge from the kitchen after three days
of making broth and pastry and cream fillings and washing individual
hand-harvested leaves that took five different shopping trips to find,
hair plastered to our damp cheeks, in aprons multi-colored in blood, spinach, turmeric,
grateful to sit at a table that’s really a door over two sawhorses
covered by a deep green sheet and onto which the pollen drifts in soft
yellow piles, comforted to eat a little, drink some of the wine before it’s all gone,
hoping desperately someone else might be kind enough to clean up.
© 2018 Laurel Peterson
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