For a Cook


From the Archive

Anonymous painting, nineteenth century

Craig Arnold’s “For a Cook” appeared in our Winter 1997 issue. Arnold, born on this day in 1967, published only two collections of poems before his presumed death in 2009, when he went missing while hiking alone on a volcanic island in Japan. —D. P. 

What I remember most is what he did to the couple
  who sent his best pasta back to the kitchen,

pronouncing it “too thin.” Capers and kalamata
  olives tossed with squid-ink angelhair

—salty, he used to say, as sweat on a black man’s cock.
  He said this often, not only to shock:

food should be made with love, and love to him was sweat,
  saliva, tears. What do they want from me?

he muttered, adding an egg—more Parmesan—a cup
  of heavy cream—and tossed it all together,

the straw-yellow sauce stringy with albumen,
  thickened with semen as an afterthought.

Now he is dead. I write the recipe of all
  of him that’s still out there in circulation:

tips of fingers and knuckles, pared away to scars
  by the big knives, carelessly julienned

together with the root vegetables, the stray chips
  of thumbnail, here and there a curled black hair,

spit hissing on a skillet, a drop of blood in the sauce,
  the oil of his hand glazing the dough.