Just Butter


We have good friends who
Before they turned Jewish
Were Anabaptist
Or quite possibly they were Mennonite
And I always admired their willingness
To try new things or
Maybe it is their willingness
To try old things
Like the horse and buggy or
That fabulous Kitchen Queen stove

But they had a tradition
Of bringing round cookie platters
To neighbors and friends this time of year
Five, six, seven kinds of cookies on a plate
So I thought I’d emulate
And this was before I’d internalized
That cane sugar is poison
Besides, macaroon and meringue
Are just fun to say
And I’m a sucker for a Mexican wedding cake

So I went to the grocer and bought things I never buy
Bags of flaked coconut, sweet condensed milk
And crème de la Genghis Khan
And I thought it’d be a good thing
For the family to do while father visits
Sounds right, doesn’t it?
Holidays, family, making plates of cookies to pass around

And so I’m going over things on the morning before
And I realize I forgot to get butter
And we need lots of butter
And we live 15 miles from the butter store
So I phone pops, “Can you pick up some butter?”
Only pops isn’t there
So I leave it on his voice mail
“Can you stop by the store on the way
And pick up 3 boxes of regular, stick butter
Get unsalted please. 3 boxes of unsalted butter.”

Later, dad is at the store
And he calls me on his cell phone
“I’m here at the grocery and
You just want regular butter, right?
I’m calling because you said
‘unsalted’ like three times and
I wanted to make sure.” he says
“Yes, get unsalted. Thanks” I reply

And when later he arrives to our house
He hands me the bag
And of course it doesn’t matter
And of course “regular” butter might mean
With salt or not
But pops got salted
And I laugh and smile
Cause he called about it to clarify
Cause he thought he understood me
Cause I thought I understood him
And we tried our best to communicate clearly
And so we are

But in the end, there could be no harm done
We didn’t make it past one kind of cookie
Didn’t even use the boughten butter
Just made gingerbread with the butter we had
And cut little shapes of little people
Pressing on forms and pushing the images forth
Burning a few but not badly enough that
They couldn’t be eaten
Cane sugar internalized

And I don’t remember
Any one cookie particularly
Cut from the same dough
I wonder they seek
And what part poison
What part sweetness
Who gets burned
Who gets eaten
What becomes of clarity, communication
And understanding digested

One might turn to God for answers
And God might turn one back around for asking

Art by Anders Zorn


4 thoughts on “Just Butter”

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