Dad dreams about the walk-in cooler, holy and secret its open cans of cherries, whole boxes of loose chocolate chips. Always more vivid than mine, he sees every detail of the bakery in ’53. See that picture? That’s all of us there, says his peg-legged grandfather, pointing to a wall calendar–Baroque Cossacks fording a river. That’s your Dad, that’s Harold and John Pristacz, and the one with the biggest sword is me. Dad studied their faces, their billowing mustaches for the rest of the year. He remembers the shop, its work table rubbed smooth, splinterless from thirty years of use. One oven is set in the wall - black metal poured with the building at the turn of the century. The other looks like an art deco locomotive. They both open for offerings of loaves, mouths ten feet deep and fiery. Against the wall are the mixers, tall as grown men, revolving bowls the size of armchairs. When he was six, Dad dreamed his grandmother fell in naked and rolled ecstatic in the wet dough, her mouth a perfect circle.
It’s always around the corner. Last night I left Chris’ house – which doesn’t exist – turned right and there it was, larger than I remember. It always is somehow. Presumably my mother and father were inside working on a meal or maybe watching a movie, but I woke up before I could see. Other times it’s been less itself. Once, my parents had renovated it beyond recognition, skylights and open concept rooms. I didn’t care. I was happy they had somewhere familiar to grow old. I like going to sleep now. How wonderful to see all the different ways emptiness can fold itself.
Erich Slimak is a singer, amateur basketball historian, and fifth-generation New Yorker, where he lives with his partner. He received his MFA in Poetry Writing from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he served as Assistant Poetry Editor of NINTH LETTER. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, I-70 Review, The Pinch, and elsewhere.