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Douglas Goetsch

THE VELDT

This January first I watched Janet Wormser fix me an impromptu lunch
of penne with veal sausage and mustard greens sautéed in olive oil

in her kitchen in Marshfield, VT, while I told her
of one Angela Liang, who two weeks later

would cook up some pot stickers and pumpkin soup in her kitchen
in Washington, DC. That neither of these women fancies herself a chef

makes me all the more amazed at the ease with which
they stand at their stoves leaning into one hip then another

while conversing about people they gave birth to (two each)
now orbiting near or far from these nutritious meals.

Wouldn’t this be the epitome of multi-tasking,
which women supposedly and to a ridiculous degree

are better at than men? Angela made a puddle
of oil and water in the skillet so that once the steam evaporated

the dumplings commenced to sizzle and brown
while she turned them with chopsticks and worried aloud

about whether her younger son was making enough
kindergarten friends. Doesn’t that say everything?

And if it doesn’t don’t ask me—I’m just a man
with overhanging brow and tunnel vision for focusing

in the distance out on the veldt. Driving to Janet’s
I spotted a lone shack on a bare hill, white smoke

coming out a roof pipe, and in the eternity it took to pass by
I shuddered to picture myself living in that amputated space.

Far better to be by the big windows in Janet’s circular house,
the pasta al dente, the Pecorino Romano grated over the bowls

while she spoke of lifelong tension with her adult daughter.
Look, I can cook, but every time I make a decent meal it feels

like such a goddamn achievement, like I’d wrested
the food from the hot maw of some fissure in the ground

and may never manage it again—male homo sapiens
eking out survival. This must be why those Hindu goddesses

are depicted with life crawling from every pore,
the multitudes bathing in waterfalls, swaddling babies,

weaving tapestries, while the male deities—
once you get past the earrings and ankle bracelets—

are basically pairs of eyes on fire. But it’s been a good year
so far here on earth, which has been generous and patient

to have me, and to which I have so little to offer,
just some scribbling, and eventually these bones.
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—from Tar River Poetry 52.2 (Spring 2012). Douglas Goetsch is the author of six volumes of poetry, including The Job of Being Everybody and Nameless Boy, forthcoming from Orchises Press in 2015. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, Best American Poetry, and many others.