Fork

by Jeff Oaks

This one is hard to explain. Why Fork? Why not Fuck? Or Flight? I don’t have an answer, so I can’t tell you the truth. It’s just that I wanted to write something for the fork, the utensil I find the most interesting. The spoon is the cupped hand, the drink. The knife is the sharp hand, the breaker. The fork is the outstretched hand, fingers and all. It’s the newest of all the utensils. The newest to the table certainly. Whole civilizations rose and fell without forks. They had tongs and spits. They ate with their hands what we eat now with forks.

I don’t even have a story about a fork that saved my life, or a fork that led me somehow to reconsider some old idea I used to believe in. The fork is not for me a symbol of how the Christian trinity might also be One thing underneath its triple aspects. At least it wasn’t until I wrote that sentence.

It has nothing to do with forked tongues, which demons and white men have apparently. It has nothing to do with taking a fork in the road, or that for Dylan Thomas, “Though wise men at their end know dark is right,/ Because their words had forked no lightning, they/ Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Neither is it about having forked something over. Which is about having hidden something that belonged to someone else and having been found out and forced to give it back.

I just simply wrote down the word Fork when I got to F. I wrote it down at the time very quickly and with what felt like need. The one thing I remember seeing when I wrote Fork down was an array of forks, as on a complicated dinner table setting. There are salad forks, dessert forks, forks for fish and forks for meat, forks for relish.

Sometimes, I know, you just have to trust your instincts and dig in. Sometimes you’re just attracted to a strange word, and if you turn it over and over enough, you go through a kind of door. It may well be that it’s Fork’s relationship to Left, which is where it goes in terms of its table setting. Spoon and knife, with five letters like Right, go on the right of the plate. They wait and wait.

Sometimes no meal comes to the table. Sometimes your love doesn’t pay off with returned love. Sometimes it requires therapy to get you thinking about another utensil, another way to treat the world than spearing it. Maybe you need to cup your hand and offer love. Sometimes you might need to cut the cord and call it done. Stick a fork in it.

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