Family Food by Wendy Hoffman

Family Food

For fifty years now, I sprinkle the Hungarian sweet paprika onto the cooled sautéed onions and stir in bits of ice.

Mrs. Mathies, who helped my mother clean, had dictated this recipe. She bought her paprika at Paprika Weiss on the east side. It’s all in the spice.

The shop went out of business decades ago.

As newlyweds, my sister and I cooked this dish for our philosopher-husbands—a coincidence. Mother said they became philosophers because they couldn’t win arguments with their parents.

Sisters sharing recipes for beef, chicken, taste, divorce.

We baked from Grandma’s recipe for lemon cake. Mother called it Grandmomela cake.

Sisters sharing histories, genes.

No one else comes so close, like skin, and then it’s gone
like the only store that grinds and sells the authentic.

*

Wendy Hoffman has published three memoirs, Enslaved Queen, White Witch in a Black Robe and in 2020, A Brain of My Own. A German translation of Enslaved Queen is forthcoming. Her book of poetry, Forceps, was also published along with a co-authored book of essays, From the Trenches, written with Alison Miller.

Winter’s Toll by Melanie Figg

Winter’s Toll

The deer are starving.
Summer was too dry and snow came too soon
and too thick. They usually don’t come out
of the woods until February. It’s almost Christmas
and they’re in the trailer park by ten.

My mother died a week ago.
We cleaned out her refrigerator,
found two bins of apples
she had no energy to can
and left them for the deer.

After bar close I drive in slow: two doe and a fawn.
For a minute I feel lucky—to see animals so hungry
they’re at front doors eating
Christmas wreaths. One doe swings her head,
watches me park and go inside
my mother’s house. They keep walking,
looking for apples on the snow-covered lawns.

*

Melanie Figg’s debut poetry collection, Trace (New Rivers Press) was named one of the 100 Best Indie Books of 2020 by Kirkus Reviews. Melanie has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The McKnight and Jerome Foundations, the Maryland State Arts Council, and others. Her poems, personal essays, and book reviews can be found in dozens of literary journals including The Iowa Review, Nimrod, and The Rumpus. As a certified professional coach, Melanie teaches creative writing, offers women’s writing retreats, and works one-on-one with writers and others. http://www.melaniefigg.net

Two Poems by Mark Saba

Flowers in the Dark

The young man holding flowers
delivered our food in three boxes.
Loose potatoes and apples, lettuce

partially wrapped beside a box of butter,
berries, almonds, and Greek cheese.
He wasn’t sure which flowers we liked

so bought three: one, wrapped tulips
and two alstroemeria. Did we like
the purple or peach? He stood

in his buttoned rust jacket, a shadow
of the boy who graduated with my son
six years ago, now a generation

of wise old youth holding flowers
for their elders. Which one don’t you want
he asked. It will look nice

in my apartment. He stood there
six feet away in the dark
having delivered our groceries

holding a bouquet of flowers
that I’m not sure he really wanted
or knew what to do with

once back to his other world
the one without flowers
or any place to put them.

*

The Broken

My brother, my daughter, my father,
my wife. A cloudy eye, piece of leg
and vanishing arm.

An asymmetry in stride, an upbeat cheek
adjacent to uncertain lips.
The visitors come whole, hoping to embrace

the broken pieces of those they’d once known
but have been disassembled
as they try to reconstruct.

Outside, under searing light,
the rehab grounds remain dressed
in autumn finery: greens and golds

atop fiery trees, a harboring mountain,
glass-walled rooms that look out
and allow a looking in. My son,

my husband, my sister, my dear friend.
We hold the pieces of you
and let the pieces fall.

*

Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). Saba’s work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. His is also a painter, and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.