The Welcoming Table

I am standing in my kitchen.
I have chocolate desserts baking.
The caramel will stay in a bath of warm water,
Until I pool it around the waiting brownies.
The room fills with persuasive scents of food.
But the cocoa plays evasive,
And taunts from the edges.
There are many traces here that say
"This is a kitchen where someone who loves cooks."

I made chicken soup the way my grandmother's mother would,
Hours over a simmer, then through strainer and cheese cloth,
Skimmed before the bird goes back in with friendly vegetables.
The dumplings have been boiled, then fried, and offer moral support.
They sit coated in toasted bread crumbs on a side plate.

The table is ready to be set.

The cheese is now at room temperature and waits on the board.
I've left you out crackers and two loaves of bread,
Newly bought from the baker.
(Bread I do not do. I leave that to the experts.)
We can talk over torn doughy pieces dipped in oil.

I lay out a freshly ironed and starched table cloth.
Oh, really?
Haven’t you seen one in a while?
Now is your chance.
Your cutlery will be polished and set out in European mode
Tines pointing down.
We will have finger bowls filled with water and shy curling lemon zest.

We watch the figs hold their breath in honey, huddled together for us to share.
I cannot remember which olives you like.
I lay equal amounts of black and green out, but separately,
In case you have a pronounced dislike.

Nothing here is heavy.
Our repast should distract you.
I don't want you overwhelmed.
Pick and choose what you like.
I'm not a stern matron who expects you eat everything.
Take your time.

You sounded pensive last we spoke.
If you wish to talk, I will listen.
Elbows are allowed on this table.
Lean forward and whisper or sit back in disbelief.
Let's be ourselves.
I watch you unwind and be the flower that opens in gentle sunlight.
We reach again for food.

I think we need pistachios.
Let me fill two large piles into bowls.
It will give us something to pick at while we talk.
They are your subtle distraction when eye contact is too honest.
The spread of fragrant shells is for you to play with.
Whatever makes you happy.

When you need,
I have water set out for you that has been infused with cinnamon sticks in a pitcher.
It's gaudy, but it's good to do.

The pomegranates are chilled.
And I will have them set on a glass plate when we're ready.
They are messy.
I share in your guilt and glee,
What better way to be caught red handed?

Is the napkin folded correctly?
The clean white cotton is meant to be used during the meal
And for the murmur's, mutters and mmhmm's of our conversation.
A laugh may smudge red, a tear's mascara will scuff black.
Those can be washed out, always remember that.

Paper napkins?
Blah! Too ephemeral. They lack substance.
You are well worth the laundering and the ironing.

The napkin ring is so well polished,
I see myself reflected upside down in yours as I sit
And wait for you to ring the bell.

I brush fingertips against the grilled zucchini.
For the third time, I rearrange the bread and olive oil.
I fidget and fuss.

Maybe today while we sit together you can tell me what bothers you.

There is family here.

After you wash your hands,
Ease yourself to the table.
Sit and enjoy.
Start at the beginning.

When we get to the coffee
Darker than the coming night,
The clouds should have passed
So your heart will be mended.

Remember to leave room for the dessert I made just for you.