Formica Dreams

by Joshua H. Liberatore

Who can enumerate the meals served, prepared, conceived
on this gleaming, marbled surface? Onion-rich and yellowed
by years of immigrant congress, its edges bear evidence
to family joy and neighborhood sadness alike, a layered
(yet impregnable) stratum of prosperity’s cruel ironies.

Rituals contained, coffee after pranzo, salad after supper,
wine before soup, oil instead of butter – all is revealed
in its shiny veneer. No egg white permanently effaced from
this hermetic archive of second-day produce, pungent aromas
of freshly picked dandelion, no errant meatball forgotten,
no pastry quite removed. (Watermarks of grief unredressed.)
If tomatoes did not stain, what good did they do?

No one remembers its origins – an uncle’s benevolent boss,
a cousin’s wedding bounty shared, a church-basement sale?
So many elbows, too few to cause buckle, too ready to last,
a nimble and rapturous artifact in god’s kitchen, a blessing
never questioned, provenance guaranteed by middle-class grace.
Eight at a time, ten would mean elsewhere – a surprise visit
never daunted, its capacity secure: folding chairs reassured.

Excellent birds look on with envy, a human harvest fit for
kings but made by peasants, nobody in doubt of what
nobody knew was a miracle unsurpassed in all the annals
of Ellis Island’s meek promise in the land of the large.
A place one could live and forgive and be forgiven –
tables laid to perfection were proof the decision was right.
One patria lost (in some ways forever), but paradise regained
in the dreams of Formica’s resplendent durability and weight.

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