The Sushi Chef's Wife

She won't go to the beach
The smell of salt-water clings
To her nostrils for weeks afterwards
Leaving her lethargic and nauseated
Sitting in the bath all day
Trying to wash the salt from her skin

She can't stand fish

He comes into the house through the laundry
Leaving his clothes on the washing machine
Washing in the small shower
Until his hair smells of apples
His skin of lavender, rosemary and tea tree
Then in faded blue cotton shirt and black drill shorts
He comes into her kitchen

She ties the apron strings around her waist

Three years of late dinners
There is always food ready for his arrival
In the early afternoon she shops for food
Only fresh will do
The smooth weight of an eggplant
The marbled feel of a melon
The sweet smell of a steak
Deciding the meal to come

She wheels her trolley carefully to avoid the fish case

Shelves full of mustards and vinegars in her pantry
Pots full of pork bones and puha
Home-made pasta for her linguine
She cooks borscht and curry
Bakes strudel and black pudding
Fills their plates with corned beef

The knife rests delicately in her palm

He lifts the dark curls of hair from her neck
Kissing the sweat that rests there
They make love on the kitchen table
Knocking over the pepper grinder
Pressing wrinkles into the clean tablecloth
The table creaking under their weight

The fisherman always leaves before midnight

Paula Harris

Published in Poetry NZ 20
March 2000