by Brenda McIfenna
You won’t like the black goose eggs, my best friend Rosemary said as she perfumed her hair with oriental spices
and the steam of sticky white kernels.
I’d eaten rice paper and seaweed that night, our first sleepover,
but I believed she could scan my tongue as she still
reads my mind. She knows I haven’t called
in a month. I should. I keep forgetting.
The night rain sizzles like hot oil
or static in the background of memory.
Americans need to remember their elders,
Rosemary said, remember
the wrinkled wisdom of my neighbor Norma Ripplinger,
in her hunger for company gladly giving away Scottish phrases and chocolate-covered peanuts. I
devoured the chocolate
by the handful her words —
’twas o bra bit moonlit nit tonit
it’s alrit ye cen — ravenous as
only a privileged child with a plump belly
can be. Norma died lonely after she ran out of peanuts
and couldn’t speak anymore —the tubes in her nose
prevented it, and I hid at home, afraid of catching
old age while rain whispers nit ye nit ye on the hospital roof.
And did I remember
when her body attacked itself
and she was forced by allergies to live on the foul stink of split
peas and beans washed down with soy? On Christmas
we smacked our tongues on almond roca —
her old favorite — as she patiently
waited for the beans to boil.
In my greedy craving I forgot then.
But I remember
now as I reach for the telephone,
the rain hissing the language
of a thousand years not lost forever, it seems,
in the gluttonous night.