My leisure sports need work. My pool game is almost as bad as my bowling, which is bad. But, on the upside, I am uncannily good at rolling around on the pool table like Tawny Kitaen on the hood of the Jaguar in that old Whitesnake video. I also know all the lyrics to Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” and Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” which scored me big Brownie points last night with Keaton’s boyfriend Mark. Keaton said I never cease to amaze her. She thinks I should ride a mechanical bull on my birthday. I think I should ride a real bull. In honor of Oklahoma and all those kids from other states who used to ask me if I rode a cow to school, which I didn’t.
Speaking of barnyard animals, tomorrow is the long-awaited Knight family lamb roast extravaganza for sixty! Kate’s friend Nicho has provided an organically-raised lamb from his family’s farm, slaughtered just today, and it is likely being prepped in the Knights’ garage as I type this. There are many meats to love, but lamb, I love none so much as thee.
This afternoon I trekked out to the wooded Knight abode to help with the preparations. When no one answered the front door, I let myself in and walked through the house until I found the back door open and Bing, Todd, and Bing’s friend Steve down by the water, gearing up the little sailboat for a jaunt out on Phantom Lake. Margot whisked me away to the house, where she offered me the family selection of swimsuits and a story for each. After a few tries and much mumbling to myself, I wound up in a red string bikini top and a blindingly heinous pair of green and yellow flowered hot pants. I felt like one of the family. It was a gorgeous afternoon. I went out on the boat with Margot and Todd and didn’t even hit my head on the boom.
Early evening found me and Kate picking supple grape leaves for dolmas, while across the garden her father tended a bed of long-necked flowers, his boom box crooning Al Green.
I stirred a heavy skillet of onions for the rice filling while Margot and Todd bustled, blanched, and chopped, and shortly thereafter I demonstrated my newly discovered and frighteningly impressive skill at rolling and folding dolmas. Kate set a pound of butter on the stove to melt and settled into a relaxed rhythm with her four pans of baklava. Steve and his girlfriend Amy busied themselves with a cheesecake to prop up the just-picked blackberries and raspberries from the garden.
Tomorrow will be delicious. For the lamb, I will say:
by James Wright, from Above the River: The Complete Poems
All right. Try this,
Then. Every body
I know and care for,
And every body
Else is going
To die in a loneliness
I can’t imagine and a pain
I don’t know. We had
To go on living. We
Untangled the net, we slit
The body of this fish
Open from the hinge of the tail
To a place beneath the chin
I wish I could sing of.
I would just as soon we let
The living go on living.
An old poet whom we believe in
Said the same thing, and so
We paused among the dark cattails and prayed
For the muskrats,
For the ripples below their tails,
For the little movements that we knew the crawdads were making
For the right-hand wrist of my cousin who is a policeman.
We prayed for the game warden’s blindness.
We prayed for the road home.
We ate the fish.
There must be something very beautiful in my body,
I am so happy.