Shelling Peas While Watching the News by Carol A. Amato

Shelling Peas While Watching the News

I’m shelling new spring peas while watching,
slicing the sturdy pods open with my thumbnail
designed specifically for this.
Six to eight peas in a pod, some hanging in opposition
others in a tightly packed line-up seeming uncomfortable.
The grassy smell places me in some bee-buzzed garden
where they dangled just before, being aborted from their
fetal-hold to join the company of others in the pail
robbed of light in that dark chamber deprived of sun.

The somber-faced news anchors, smartly jacketed
and well-coifed also gather in their respective pods,
delivering the latest breaking that had indeed broken
yesterday but deserves repetition all day, all night long:

the war crimes of the nation that commits atrocities,
photos that we might find disturbing but they are compelled
to show, as if we cannot imagine the horror of the motherless
child crying in the street of rubble and other dead innocents.

I lower my eyes to my task and watch as one by one
the peas plop into the colander as I drop them, their
numbers accumulate verdant as the color of Scotland’s
emerald hills where I am transported against the admonition,
Don’t Look Away, but I do.

I turn off the TV and take the colander and the remainder
of the unopened pods to the back porch where back in
the day Ma showed me how to shell them, catching
the pods in her ample apron as the spring breeze carried
our voices across the newly budded grapevine-trellised yard.

We only thought it was better then: The contained Cold War,
the yet unmasked differences threatening democracy, but it
was because there was so much less for us to hear or see.
The news broke often without us knowing it for days.
Now it is our unalienable right to know it all, often in
its fearful and grim immediacy. We mourn, helpless.

Later I steam the peas in a little water and when tender
add sweet butter with barely a dash of salt. I eat the first
buttery few letting them linger on my tongue
even sweeter and more needed than in those
ignorant, innocent, halcyon days.

by Carol A. Amato

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem makes an ordinary task, done many times, feel utterly important given the context of the greater world’s wars and tragedy.