The Host
Andrew D. Miller (bio)

Vast furry-edged things, they spread (pyrite-colored)
Across the black skillet.
Rising into disks as thick as a thumbs, they showed
Cysts of almonds, grains of sweet cooked rice,
The blurred loads of blue berries.

I’ve known men to make pancakes like pretty rooms,
Like silver dollars, like gaskets
Frying up so neatly they shine picture-perfect and stink
Of the pop-music of margarine
And Betty Crooker cake-mix,

But seeing my brother make pancakes is watching
A man mixing up a gigantic yomp of batter
(Hands sunk into eggs, into whole-grain flour,
Into the fattest kind of cream),
And eating his pancakes is chewing the world:

Pans concert and clang. Steam scuds the room, laced
With whiffs of hot butter and vanilla,
And I know (when I am not looking—there beside the window
That glimpses a patch of the Hudson)
My brother stirs the river into the pancakes.

He ladles in the metallic brown water, and so he takes
The river’s voice, beats in
As well the calls of the gulls, adds in the slow measures
Of slug-colored tugs numerous now
As they nudge the currents North toward White Plains.

And the barrio (Inwood)—what else crackles in my mouth
But the cheer of Dominican voices rising up
From the gush of Spanish streets? All descend into a taste of cloves,
Where garlic should not be and goes
Jacketed in a lacquer of honey.

Mornings like these, the city moving into autumn,
After breakfast, my brother takes off
The creased slacks he’s worn all night. He hangs the noose
Of his tie (its tin-cross pin shining
Like a target) on the hook in the hall.

The Bible in his hand is whiter than ivory. Its golden pages flash—
Too brightly to be real. Still, he puts it
On the shelf where it fits like a missing tooth.
He’s preached all night on the A Train.
All night his voice has tolled up the car:

“Kneel down with me,” he has said. “Lay your hands here
Inside my own.” “I come in that holy name.”
“Come as I come to tell you: you are not alone.”
Pressed close, thuggish with wishes, gripping
Their bags to their chests, only the mad meet his eyes.

He goes on: hands great and open, face wet with belief.
Mornings, he tells me how he succeeds:
How there comes a man or woman up to him
Stinking in the shreds of thrown off clothes,
And they pray. They take his hands….

“Because they are hungry,” I tell him. “Because they are sick.”
“Because you give them money,
And come home empty-handed.” And he does come home
With an empty voice:
And eyes as empty as red stained glass,

But the grocery bags are full of eggs, raisins, almonds, prunes.
And as the pan grows red hot, these fall:
Dropping into the batter, dollop after dollop,
And now, he clunks down the syrup’s silver can,
The butter’s block, the jam. And here is the Host.

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