I have a spatula
I bought at the thrift store
just like the one
my friend’s mother had
when I was in high school.
There’s something about this utensil,
beyond its quality,
its stainless steel durability,
and design that allows
what’s stirred
to flow through.

She used this spatula
making scrambled eggs
in a copper-bottom pan,
when I learned
they should be moist,
not dry and overcooked.

My friend used it to slip the cookies
from the sheet, the chocolate chips
she made from the rolls of pre-made dough.
Theirs seemed to be an easier world,
but apparently it was not.
My mother had died,
hers was an alcoholic,
though I didn’t know it
or even know how to,
though she may have told me
of the bottles in bags,
the nightly stupor,
driving out of town
to hit different liquor stores
where you’re unknown.

It’s hard to remember now
what she said then,
and what was revealed later
when we were adults.
I can’t help being grateful
for my ignorance because
I liked to be at their house
which modeled what I would grow up to,
a woman alone with a daughter.
There was an order there,
the well-run household
of a Home Ec professor,
where the copper bottoms
were always shined
and the house tidy.
Meals, and cleaning and laundry
all seemed effortless,
a feat which has remained a mystery
for all my life.

Maple Early American furniture
in every room implying
a certain cohesiveness
which I guess was a lie.
Her doll collection in
the middle bedroom
which was never used.

My friend was grooved
into her routines at an early age,
the Mentholatum she kept in her
nightstand drawer,
the way she brushed her hair
before bed, popping her contacts
into their plastic case.
She had a confidence then I lacked,
a sense of herself in her world
which I had already lost trust in.

That winter we listened to
Johnny Mathis and danced
with the basement post.
We drove through town in her
mother’s car and I practiced
smoking cigars.
We drove out to the new freeway
which didn’t go anywhere yet
so she could have her cigarettes

I cannot remember the kitchen utensils
in my sister’s house next door,
where I lived at the time.
Thinking back it was one
of the most displaced places
I ever lived,
more than the other places
I lived with my sister.
I was not really anywhere then,
it was the beginning of a long life
in a lingering kind of limbo
with nothing to root to,
no place to gather your ways
about yourself, to discover
what your rhythms and routines might be.

It was at my friend’s house
where I felt more comfortable,
and I am glad to have this spatula
which makes me remember,
not what it was,
but what I wanted imagined.

1/7/97 (first 7 lines ) & 3/11/97