Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Kafka’s Cauliflower

by Judith Skillman

He’d tried before, gutting
the thick stem
from the white meat
with his mother’s butcher knife,
carving away at leaves
the same color
as the moon that shone
when he walked alone
at night, up those avenues
mapped with her, his beloved,
the one with whom he’d spend
his life. Children? They would come
after wedlock, when,
to avenge his father
he could become a father.
Steam fogged his glasses
inside the garret-sized kitchen,
where he holed up
with his prize,
this dish to please her,
if her were every woman
in his life—the sisters,
especially them. Cheese clung
to his fingers, half-melted
as the tears a boy
couldn’t cry came into his eyes,
whet the skin of cheekbone,
dried there. This time
would be perfect. The cruciferous
would give way
beneath teeth used to having
or not having—as if
the two states,
to want or not to want—
could live apart
from one another
like the wooden piece lying
on the card table
in the parlor, a short distance
from its puzzle.