“When the kitchen breakfast is over, and the cook has put all things in their proper places, the mistress should go in to give her orders… The mistress must tax her own memory with all this: we have no right to expect slaves or hired servants to be more attentive to our interest than we ourselves are.”
-Mary Randolph, Virginia Housewife;
Or, Methodical Cook, 1828
With one hand I serve teacakes on
the blue India china,
with the other I wipe mosquitoes
sweating from my neck.
With one voice I order French
tureens from Calder’s & Co.,
with another I order the cook
not to burn the gravy.
The hush of what is beneath the
at night grows knives.
With one mouth I smile at
the good doctor with the other I grit
my teeth watching dark eyes
always watching me.
They know what moves in shadows
refuse to polish the silver
for love of tarnish. They know
the other names for everything names
they flash like knives
when no one is around looking.