This poem came out of the June 19, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from zianuray, janetmiles, and meeksp. It has been sponsored by janetmiles. This is a direct sequel to "A Chorus of Voices," following later in the same day and featuring the perspective of a different character. Tidbits of research for this poem include colcannon, Hokusai, lutefisk, Swedish ceramics, and wabi-sabi. You can read more about the Hart's Farm series on the Serial Poetry page.
Ketiley was helping Una in the kitchen,
her black hair tucked under a kerchief,
white apron protecting her red-and-white shirt.
She lifted pieces of lutefisk out of their cold-water bath.
Meanwhile Una prepared the potatoes and kale
to make colcannon in the big skillet.
Someone rapped on the door of the kitchen.
"I am Fabrice. I paint," he said,
then motioned to the pretty foreign girl with him.
"She is Ayako. She models.
Finlo says, we are staying for supper."
"What do you two want to eat?"
Una asked them.
Fabrice and Ayako conferred in French.
"Ayako likes fish," said Fabrice.
"She eats it raw, when she can get it new enough."
"Perhaps not the lutefisk, then,"
Ketiley said, frowning down at the slabs she was salting.
"Does she like salmon? We could ask Muirgen
to try catching some fresh."
"Salmon, yes, with the white rice in these little rolls,"
he said, twiddling his fingers in the air.
"We have rice for making rice pudding and such,"
Ketiley said. "I can put some on."
She caught one of the boys in the kitchen
and sent to him to ask Muirgen for fresh salmon.
"Is there anything you cannot eat?"
Una asked Fabrice.
"Nuts make me ill," the painter said.
Ketiley sighed. The nut cake
was already in the oven.
"We can make another dessert besides nut cake,"
Una said. "There are plenty of apples for pie."
That would add time to getting supper on the table,
but then so would cooking rice
and getting a salmon from Muirgen,
so perhaps it was just as well.
"We do not mean to make extra work," said Fabrice.
Una shrugged. "We will cook what you can eat,
you will not complain about what you cannot eat,
and that will be fair," she declared. Fabrice nodded.
Ayako tapped the ceramic bowl that Ketiley brought out,
saying something complicated. Ketiley shook her head.
"Wabi," Ayako said more slowly.
"What does that mean?" Ketiley asked Fabrice.
"It is the fancy Japanese word for things
that are pretty because they are not perfect," he said.
Ketiley looked at the bowl that the potter Esja had rejected
because something had gone wrong with the rock salt in the kiln
so that the dark brown glaze formed unevenly.
Ketiley liked it that way. "Wabi," she said,
happy to have a word for the idea.
"How did Ayako wind up speaking French
and living in Sweden?" Ketiley wondered.
Fabrice grinned. "Her father trades --
fine china, silk, dyes and paints.
Ayako traveled with him, learning the work," he said.
"We met and I offered her higher pay to pose for me!
We spent two years in France, and then
we came here to enjoy a change of scenery.
She learns my French, I learn her Japanese."
Presently Muirgen came in with a small salmon,
and they all watched Ayako clean the fish,
silver knife flashing as she cut large steaks to cook
and finger-sized strips to go raw with the rice.
She did odd things with the rice too, rinsing it with vinegar,
so that it stuck together when rolled with the salmon.
The apple pie was made, and placed
at Fabrice's end of the table,
with the nut cake on the far end.
Ayako happily devoured her share of fish and rice,
and liked the colcannon -- though as Ketiley predicted,
she wrinkled her nose at the lutefisk.
Most of the young boys, and a few other people,
wanted to try the raw fish. Ketiley sampled it,
and it squeaked between her teeth,
but did not taste as bad as she had imagined.
Ayako carried on a lively conversation in French
with Fabrice and Finlo about the art of someone called Hokusai,
which the two men translated in bits and pieces.
Ketiley followed along as best she could,
thinking about the beauty of imperfections
and how fine it would be to travel the world --
or even just have more of it wander through her kitchen.