Knife Skills: an Elegy
It’s obviously about the onions,
you read from the Les Halles cookbook I brought
to your place from the city late that fall.
Don’t hold your hand like this, never like this.
I trusted him because he smirked like you,
and knew the only trick: how not to mind
the hurt, how to let it teach you to make
a buffer of some uncherished part.
I appreciated any cause to weep.
You warned: don’t cut the root through all the way.
You laid your hand over the knife as if
to bless it before pressing the bolster
draping the blade with your gentle fingers.
The slice was clean; I felt it cleave the wet
cellulose of my hemispheres. The layers
clung together under your hand. I took
the knife, its weight a balm, its edge my own.
Butter foamed in cast iron. I ran out
for sherry, proud I’d just turned twenty-one.
The outer knuckle of your other hand
was shaved sweet pink by the knife’s nicking blade.
We’re all made vulnerable when we learn.
So much of cutting is about not fucking
up, not hurting yourself badly enough to stop.
Do everything that scares you at least twice.
Why not? Onions were cheap, and we so young.
The towers had another year to stand.
All homes are made one evening at a time.
Alissa Elliott is an MFA candidate in poetry at the Sewanee School of Letters, where an early draft of her thesis collection won the 2017 Rivendell Fellowship. A translation of Rilke is forthcoming in Ezra. She teaches English at Calhoun Community College and lives with her husband and daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.