I walk through the rundown neighborhood to the rundown neighborhood market to buy a bottle of soy sauce.
Soy sauce for the dinner I was preparing to make.
Because I forgot to buy it earlier when I was at the grocery store.
Earlier, when the sun was warm and bright and the dirty snow shone with drops of water held suspended for a shimmer of a moment only to fall and be replaced by another quivering globe of bright shimmering melting.
But now, it's later.
I walk past dirty snowbanks, refrozen.
Dirty puddles filmed with ice.
Old bags and discarded papers catch in the wind like tails or wings.
The gray pink early spring sky that earlier had offered warmth like a kindness
cools as the sun slides smoothly away like the well manicured regretful wave of a newly wed princess leaving the balcony and the adoring crowds below.
Inside the dirty little store, smells sweet, oily, smells of boiled coffee. Stale cigarette vapors off the jacket of a slight man, plegmy, coughing into the beer cooler.
The cracked linoleum shows planks beneath, the floor sighs quietly with every shift every step.
Single rolls of toilet paper wrapped in white tissue paper, beer, in bottles in cans, powdered doughnuts in windowed boxes, canned cat food, Cream of Wheat, Vienna Sausages in their flip-top can, boxed macaroni and cheese that rattle like maracas if you shake them which I don't, long loaves of cheap white bread, small jars of peanut butter, cellophaned bricks of Ramen noodles, and a there, on the top shelf, a dusty bottle of soy sauce.
I think, they probably don't sell much soy sauce here.
I wonder, how long has this bottle of soy sauce has been on the shelf?
I worry, what about an expiration date, has it gone past?
I remind myself; fermentation.
The date doesn't really matter.
Some things keep.
The woman behind the counter sighs.
She jokes, “Is it Friday yet?”
I say, “Almost.”
She asks, “Would you like a bag?”
I say, “Yes. Please.”
The idea of walking down the street with a bottle of soy sauce unbagged seems strange to me.
I grip the brown paper wrapped bottle by the neck.
I think, this is an odd bird,
I think, I'm a weird wino with my brown bagged bottle of soy sauce.
A sensible drunk man, gray and thin,
a case of Pabst under his arm, holds the door for me.
He takes the worn wooden
stairs with a certain gravitas,
one worn boot
at a time
with a pause to make sure his footing is sure and true against the tilt and whirl of the Earth spinning.
He says, “It's about time.”
Being from around here I know he means, Spring.
I say, “Yes. It's about time.”
The drunk man, oddly graceful, leans over the curb into the wind
and across the street and for some reason he reminds me of a ship.
I walk home, gracelessly sober, heavy on my feet,
thinking about the word “wino”--
understanding the impulse to drink oneself into grace.
The wind picks up, cold, blowing grit into my eyes.
Walking up the drive, squinting, light from the old milk-glass lamp through the white lace curtains makes me nostalgic for a thing I haven't yet lost
or haven't yet found
or have but misplaced
I can't be sure
I don't remember
it doesn't matter.
In through the back door, into the yellow kitchen, I shuck my black wool coat,
hang it on a peg on the wall
unwind my scarf from my neck like unbinding and hang it with my coat.
I pour red wine, Malbec if you want to know, into my favorite glass, a small Ball jar once filled with jelly made by a friend in a hot kitchen from berries fresh picked by her own hands, berries still warm from the summer sun when they were poured from an enamel colander into a heavy stainless steel pot with cupfuls of white sugar like white sand.
I think this every time I pour myself a glass of wine, if my wine glass jelly jar is dirty and I choose another glass instead of washing,
the absence of the jar reminds me of the jar.
The wine tastes like an attic, July, warm wood, sour berries, sunshine, dust motes, old books.
I think, this wine is a good wine made from good grapes ripened in a warm place by a warm sun
a place where spring comes at a reasonable hour and lingers late on the veranda
with drinks after dinner.
I start the rice.
I slice tofu for my daughter and beef for my boy, I put them in separate bowls.
I pour long streams of soy sauce into each bowl, add thin slices of pithy ginger to each, crush four garlic cloves with the flat of the knife blade -- two for each
add a splash of balsamic vinegar, red peppers, yellow peppers, broccoli.
In the next room the children argue.
They are hungry I think.
as I stir the frying food.
Dinner is late.
We three sit at the scarred wooden table, we laugh and then set to arguing and then careen to laughter as quickly as the melting spring turned back to winter.
We all agree between mouthfuls
that this soy sauce is
My son says this with the fervor and zeal of a new convert,
he proclaims with his mouth full, rice falls, sticks to his shirt and chin,
somehow he manages to spit rice on the dog, the sticky rice adheres to the long black fur; the dog is not bothered.
My son says, forgetting to buy soy sauce at the grocery store was a kind of lucky. Without forgetting there wouldn't be this
The Best Soy Sauce.
We wouldn't have known.
We never would have known.
I think, Yes.
I tell him so.
I clear the table, leave the greasy plates and bowls spoons and forks, glasses with the lip and finger prints, on the counter next to the sink, for later.
I think, the dishes, they're not going anywhere, what's the hurry.
I think, they'll keep.
My daughter hums a melody that I can't place.
Looking out through the window I see my own face,
the wind blows last year's fall leaves against the screens, sounds like June bugs.
I pull on my gray sweater, I think about starting the furnace.
My son laughs and tries to pick the rice from the dog's long black fur. The dog is not bothered.
I think, forgetting is a kind of luck,
some things keep --
I think, there is proof of time passing and proof of time held suspended in a drop.
I think --
some things keep
like summer fruit or soy sauce.