Photo by Eric Sorensen

by Erika Dreifus

Hypothetical Life

Fresquiennes, a brick and limestone castle outside Rouen in Normandy, is on the market for $2.7 million (2 million euros).” — “House Hunting in France,”

If I were mistress of Fresquiennes,
rather than my apartment above Third Avenue,
I might buy, or borrow, a horse.

I would learn to ride,
so that I might gallop up the earthen drive
to my castle.

I would marvel at my very own
marble staircase
before entering the library

with its floor-to-ceiling shelves and cabinets
and long rectangular windows that look upon
just some of the 92 acres.

The library, where sunlight streams into the room,
beaming the spirit of Flaubert
upon the oak-herringbone parquet.

I would uncork a bottle brought up from
“one of the wine cellars” in the basement
and lift a glass.

Oh, Fresquiennes! To you! To me!
To Flaubert! To this hypothetical life!


Ratatouille for One

When you live alone and never liked cooking anyway,
it’s not often that your shopping list includes
green pepper, red pepper, zucchini (three green, three yellow),
not to mention the regal, purple eggplant.
And you figure that you can get away with canned crushed tomatoes
and minced garlic that you shake from a plastic bottle.
You skip the onion altogether and don’t give another thought
to the fresh parsley and whatever other herb
the recipe in Easy One-Dish Dinners calls for.
But once you gather the ingredients
and wash and slice and dice
and mix and heat and simmer,
covered, for fifteen minutes,
and uncovered another ten,
you can’t help smiling at your achievement.
And as you line the waiting bowl with part-skim
shredded mozzarella, both you and your ratatouille
are bubbling with anticipation.