Stem

Martha Clarkson

The night after he left me, I boiled an artichoke for dinner. Artichokes seemed like a good meal for a person newly single, contained in one bowl as they are, though I did have to get a separate bowl for the leaves.

I melted the butter in the microwave, in a ramekin, on high speed. I hadn’t been the butter-melter in the family, and the butter bubbled out of its dish and spurted onto the white plastic walls. I burned my hand on the small bowl, because I lacked familiarity with the power of microwaves.

I read the newspaper while I ate, the day-old Sunday. But soon the rhythm of plucking the leaves from the head and scraping them along my lower teeth became hypnotic, and I quit reading. The inner leaves, with their diaphanous ways, were hotter than the outside ones had ever been. I pulled my hand away until they were lukewarm. I was clumsy cutting away the choke. Its hairs stood up like tentacles. I’d seen others scoop chokes perfectly with one swipe of a spoon.

The heart was easy to cut up, like always, but it wasn’t as savory as I remembered. Salt, more salt. The butter bowl had burned my hand, and my fingers were numb on the knife.

 
 
 


Martha Clarkson manages corporate workplace design in Seattle. Her poetry and fiction can be found in Monkeybicycle6, Clackamas Literary Review, descant, Seattle Review, Portland Review, elimae, and Nimrod. She is a recipient of a Washington State Poets William Stafford prize 2005, a Pushcart Nomination, and is listed under “Notable Stories,” Best American Nonrequired Reading for 2007 and 2009. She is the poetry editor for Word Riot.