Angie DeCola



PRACTICAL MATH



Certain details have gone missing—
the letters she used only days ago
to notch and score that name.
The memory of those letters. The memory
of the memory of those letters.

Still more items unlink themselves
from the surface of “what’s important”—
old photographs, maps, both tinted and worn.
Details, minor details.

Heads spin. (Read, “Heads will roll.”)

In the meantime, underneath it all, Ray Price croons.
Tries to soothe and heal, rubs his voice all over you
like lotion into dry, cracked knuckles.

None of it soaks in. All possible solutions
involve too many words, not enough meaning.
There’s not memory enough to make it make sense.

If you think about life in terms of hundreds of days,
today is just a fraction. Go ahead, reduce it.




STATE OF STATURE



We’re shorter now, don’t believe in getting taller.
We gorge ourselves on protein, a misguided attempt
to get small and stay small, get gout instead.
Holland had a growth spurt midway through the 1800s.
Mayan Indians got taller after leaving Guatemala.
They ate well in sunny Florida.
Everyone has a theory of stature, why we’re shrinking.
One man wears paste-on fingernails, taps them,
shows and tells how much larger his hands are.
He plays guitars. He stays in an inn.
He tosses his thick white locks like a television star,
like a talk-show host. He’s mildly erotic,
like the store-bought prints on his wall.
There’s a riddle here—why are we shorter now?
And the answer resides in Holland, with the flatlanders,
with their long, strong legs and their bicycles.
You tell me you’re not a pygmy.
You tell me you’re not suffering.
You ask me to measure your hands
against mine, against the fingerboard,
against the six long strings and the wooden frame,
the hollow body and the tuning keys.
Some believe it would be different if we’d go to bed
at decent hours, if we’d just eat right, live right.
Once upon a time, we dwarfed the world.
Now, we ask ourselves questions having to do
with difference, poverty, number of cows per capita,
and norms that continue to fail to rise.
Who among us will declare war on this decline?
I’m telling your, your hands are entirely too small.
We construct our own histories. We play
crush or be crushed and no one wins nicely.
When the output grows, we all grow.
Ready? Let’s get larger!
Who’s pulling whom down with whom?




SALT MINE

Salt is a potent and dangerous substance that has to be handled with care. . . . Evil spirits detest salt.         
—from Salt: A World History, by Mark Kurlansky


As a child, I found small piles of rock salt,
left behind from homemade ice cream.

Somehow I knew to put the rock on my tongue
and suck. I wanted the pucker, the burn

in my throat, that sharp, sharp mineral taste.
I hadn’t yet learned of salting babies

for safety, salting husbands for more
and better sex, about salt against the evil eye,

or salt carried in a bride’s breast pocket
and sprinkled on her shoes to make her fertile.

I’d never heard of Abyssinians,
who greet their guests with a rock of salt,

whose guests must lick the rock before entering
the opened home. I only knew the taste,

the shape, the glasslike danger
of sucking on a rock, the trickle down

my throat, the bitter quench it offered me.







©2005 Angie DeCola

Angie DeCola is a pastry chef in Durham, North Carolina. Her poems have been published in DIAGRAM, the Iowa Review, and Crazyhorse. Angie is a recipient of the Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband and their little black dog.