Roux for the Departed

Heath, here I am, still,
whisk in hand, dusting bubbling butter with flour
in this Brooklyn kitchen, waiting for flame
to toast away the raw flavor
the way you taught me
in your kitchen, in Citrus Heights:
whisk in hand—salt, pepper, pouring milk,
everything whipped together
to dress up modest biscuits with country gravy,
and so I let milk fall into the saucepan’s sizzle,
add the tarragon, a little more garlic, wait for marriage
of flavors, as a pot of salted water
begins its shift and rumble,
and the chilled window gathers steam
dripping beads of neon light
across the dark blurred world you pulled me from:
a drunken boy maybe twenty,
fumbling tongue unsure
and surely in need of the understanding hand
that cut the butter into cubes that first morning-after:
your big-bellied Georgia-boy shimmy to radio soul,
the sunlit corona of vapor wavering
above biscuits’ golden domes
above milk in the saucepan
sausage, flour, pepper
everything whisked together—now
the rotelle tender to the tooth
I add the sautéed mushrooms,
a little more tarragon, and still
pull two bowls from the cupboard.



Click here to read Matthew Williams on the origin of the poem.

Image: by Gaelle Marcel, licensed under CC 2.0.

Matthew Williams:
The first man I loved taught me to make a roux. After he passed, each time I made one I could not help but think of him. This was the initial impetus for the poem. As I continued to write, I also began to consider the mechanics of memory, space, and time: what is kept, what is lost, what is present or absent, what somehow remains present through its absence. And so, in the poem, I tried to trace the presence in the absence of, not only this departed lover, but the sensations of past experience which remain alive in the present cooking of a roux.

Matthew Williams
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