Black oak chain-sawed into smaller logs, milled to board,
sanded smooth in the barn, then doweled and fit with precision.
Grandma’s buffet holds good china, stained glass in the doors,
one pane cracked: to fix it would mean taking everything apart.
We sit before dinner is served, drape laps with napkins, make conversation
like stacking childhood blocks with capital letters and pictures—
little bear, golden horn, round snare drum. The meat in the stew is beef;
there are peas and potatoes. Beware: salty broth will wake you to walk in
the night to piss, guzzle water. Wood and nail cling, screech
when a claw hammer pries apart inevitable mistakes.
Not so with dowels. Recipes are only one family secret. Everything’s
cold. Don’t fidget or hum. Say please. Eat whatever’s on your plate.
Tod Marshall lives in Spokane, Washington, where he teaches at Gonzaga University.
“Manners” was originally published in “Do You Love Me?” (TLR, Spring 2015).