The Slice / Bob Brussack


Here’s a story I tell to myself.
It’s part of the mythology of me.
I’m eight or nine.
It’s ‘58, then, or ‘59,
And fins are in,
And chrome.
There’s Crisco
And Crest,
And starched white blouses
Outshine the mornings,
And cuff-linked commuters
Clatter to the city.
But not today.
It’s a Saturday. Must be.
In the spring or summer.
I’m within the long, low confines
Of the farmers market.
I’m holding, or balancing in my hand,
The protagonist.
A slice of pizza.
It might be nestled in wax paper.
I don’t remember.
I do remember the crust.
What’s in a name?
Maybe this.
What’s called “crust”
Should be crusty.
And this crust is exquisitely, delicately crusty,
Oven-bestowed with a patina
Of gentle, teasing resistance,
Yielding at the slightest pressure.
Then, beyond the crust,
A complex, layered mystery
Of textures and tastes
Worthy of Da Vinci’s brush.
In the half-century since,
I’ve sometimes entertained the fancy
That what I encountered that Saturday
Was not a pizza, but “the” pizza,
The Platonic ideal of pizza,
The Olympian template
We’re fated to know only
As imperfect shadow.
By some quantum hiccup,
Some one-in-a-zillion shot, perhaps,
Was I granted privileged access
For a moment to another place?
I don’t know. But I do know this.
All these years
I’ve wandered the world,
A pizza Demosthenes,
And nothing has come close.

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