Make a hash of it

A friend at work
(he’s very dear)
for gods know what reasons
occasionally talks to me
about his girlfriend.
I don’t know why he asks me.
He knows all too well
(did I say he was a dear?
he’s very patient)
that awkward, baggage,
fraught and muck
are all good descriptors
of my romantic life.
(Or lack of it.
I have tried not to spare myself blame.
He wears lots of black.
Confession’s good for the soul.)
Still, though, he talks to me about his girlfriend.

What I want to say,
I haven’t yet.
What I have said so far,
Is that everybody should try.
And that people don’t stop being
two separate people just because they’re together.

What I could say,
what I should say,
is this.
Love is like hash.
Lots of different things go into it,
and if it’s going to be any good,
some of the ingredients have to be started apart,
cooked first on their own,
(and there’s no such thing as a little too
much extra butter to smooth you
through a dry patch of potato)
and then other things mixed in later.
But they should also spend lots of time in the pan
melding together, and you should make sure
to taste, testing again and again,
even when you think things are probably fine,
to make sure it’s hot enough,
seasoned enough,
that things are coming along,
crisping up nicely.

Throughout, you need to be careful.
Don’t mash the mix too hard with the spoon,
or you’ll ruin the texture.
Be careful with “extra salt, just in case.”
Keep it on a moderate flame
most of the time,
once you’ve crisped things to a nice golden glow,
since one person’s crispy is another one’s burnt.
Tastes differ, you know.
(And that’s another thing I could tell him.
Ask her how burnt she likes things– never assume.
If they can’t ever agree, maybe they’ve got a problem,
hard as it can be to admit.
It’s so nice to have company at the table at breakfast.)

In the end,
you don’t want things mushy or burnt.
You want a hash where you can still taste
each bit of potato,
each onion,
each hint of herb and each bit of meat.
Separate, and yet altogether.
After all, you don’t want to make a hash out of things.

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