26 August 2007

Shelling Peas

They sat in the breeze of the window unit air conditioning
That made a rattle throughout the house,
And father and son watched television
As they shelled peas on a hot summer day.
Comfortable in their frayed cushioned armchairs in front of a black and white tv.
The routine was efficient:
1.Snap the top off.
2.Pull down like a zipper.
3.Peel open the sides of the pod.
4.Run your thumb along the inside flicking the peas into the bowl.
5.Keep the empty hulls in your hand as you begin again.
6.When you have several empty hulls in hand, throw them in the brown paper bag at your feet.
7.Dump the hulls in the compost pile when the bag is filled.
8.Blanche the peas in boiling water so that they do not grow roots when they are placed in the freezer.

Sometimes they listened to the din of the television.
Sometimes they listened to their own internal din.
They sometimes spoke at each other—
To answer a quiz show question or to comment on a sitcom plot.
Shelling peas was largely a practice in isolation.

As a son, I wish it had been as easy as shelling with us.
I wish I could have, or would have,
Peeled open my pod for you to see.
Even if you had blanched
My ideas in anger.
At least you would have seen them.
But reaching the inside
Involves breaking off the top,
And that can be painful to a boy of ten.
Or thirteen.
Or nineteen.
Or thirty.

And the compost pile,
Although nurturing of so much life,
Seems rancid and dead when you’re so green.

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