Pasta

Nina Knueven
Featured Image: Fornace © A. Anupama 2018

I

I’ll never forget the first time—
the first time I saw the divine silver rollers
my mother polished like pearls.
I studied her hands, the veins splintering
from her delicate wrists,
that pirouetted through the air.
Her fingers played the pasta dough
like a quiet piano only she heard.
Slivers of pasta were reborn on the other side.
My mother was gliding it through with one hand,
into its new life with fluid motion;
magic, I thought.
“Vieni qua, piccola.”
I came closer for her to place my hands
underneath the smooth pasta-
Dying and being reborn.
That Sunday, we made pasta.
 

II

Maybe it all could have been blamed
on pubescent teens—
turbulent hormones turning about.
Everyone pricked my eyes;
he didn’t ask me to the dance,
the dress didn’t fit,
my own blood betrayed my girlhood
in front of everyone.
Stars and planets would not align.
We let the pasta undulate
through our fingers,
like the tall weeds in the lake.
The weeds that used to make me think
another world existed under the mirrored water.
My mother’s sauce had been simmering all day-
Garlic, onion, oregano—old world comforts,
rested around the table.
Then we cooked the pasta.
“Mangia. Why you no touch your food?”
I’m not hungry
But on Sunday, we make pasta.
 

III

My car is gone.
The black Honda that carried me
over countless state lines
is not just gone—but gone, gone.
I moved back home,
with two weeks of clothes in my tired bag.
Participation ribbons are not rewarding.
Words rise and ripple out of mouths
so easily: I love you, till death do us part.
Dangling in duality is no way to exist.
The clanging cast iron pots call me
into the kitchen,
where garlic and onion saturate the air.
Mother has filled the table with her tools-
archaic utensils, lavished with floral etchings and dents.
We sit down together;
she squeezes my hand with her soft grip,
and passes me dough to knead.
“Be mad. Grab. Beat.” She smiles.
Because on Sunday, we make pasta.
 

IV

In the kitchen at the nursing home,
the foreign wallpaper bounces back my obscure looks.
Mother is having a good day,
so the nurse lets me cook for her.
She is glided up to the table
in her cage on wheels.
She cannot bustle about,
nor can she remember the recipes
written in her blood.
Her mind is reduced to tangled neurons,
lost thoughts, vacant days.
Memories are cracked and blown
away like white birch bark strewn across the grass.
Her polite gaze falls to the pasta roller.
Her large brown eyes take it in, like a stranger,
they grow larger with intrigue.
After I let her watch me,
I guide her hands to the roller.
They tremble with uncertainty,
but balance and pull the pasta along.
She smiles. “It’s magic.”
That Sunday, we made pasta.

 


Photographer bio.