in the street market
along the rue Mouffetard
amid the babble of accents,
the recent immigrants:
dark faces from Cameroon,
the oranges from North Africa,
brown skins from Algeria,
fragrant, ghost white mushrooms
from the dark earth of Brittany,
the ancient gray Parisians;
herbs and peppers and vegetables--
reds, greens, and yellows, each distinct,
luminous in the overcast.

When we returned to our rented flat
he napped, tired from the short walk.

I sliced two large tomatoes in rounds
drained them, picked basil,
dried the muted green leaves,
sliced the spongy white mozzarella,
remembering the way he sliced salami when I was young,
precise, paper-thin, an astonishing number of slices
from a single, stubby sausage.

On two white porcelain plates I interleaved
tomato, mozzarella, basil.

When I heard him in the bathroom, shaking out
the ration of pills that were buying him the extra days,
I drizzled golden olive oil over the salads,
set them on the table
with red linen napkins,
with polished silver.

Before he ate, he photographed his plate.

Richard Beban

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