“Mother is drinking to forget a man / who could fill the woods with invitations”is perhaps one of the best poem openers I have come across. Sure, it is simple. But it is also grotesque. The phrase is already a poem before the poem even begins.
This line opens Lynn Emanuel’s poem “Frying Trout While Drunk.” Emanuel is a well-established poet, whose work won a Pushcart Prize, one of the most important prizes awarded in the literary world. Today, she teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
Emmanuel spoke about her influences (Calvino, Rich) with “Blackbird Magazine” in an interview that can be heard here. But, the best way to get to know Emanuel is to read her poems.
Frying Trout While Drunk
Mother is drinking to forget a man
who could fill the woods with invitations:
come with me he whispered and she went
in his Nash Rambler, its dash
where her knees turned green
in the radium dials of the 50’s.
When I drink it is always 1953,
bacon wilting in the pan on Cook Street
and mother, wrist deep in red water,
laying a trail from the sink
to a glass of gin and back.
She is a beautiful, unlucky woman
in love with a man of lechery so solid
you could build a table on it
and when you did the blues would come to visit.
I remember all of us awkwardly at dinner,
the dark slung across the porch,
and then mother’s dress falling to the floor,
buttons ticking like seeds spit on a plate.
When I drink I am too much like her—
the knife in one hand and the trout
with a belly white as my wrist.
I have loved you all my life
she told him and it was true
in the same way that all her life
she drank, dedicated to the act itself,
she stood at this stove
and with the care of the very drunk
handed him the plate.