The Adversary

By Chad Frame

 

I walk into the confessional booth.
I haven’t been in at least a decade,
and, between you and me, I should confess

I’m not entirely sure how this whole
thing goes anymore. But I hope it’s like
riding a bike—you know, something I thought

was great as a child but now realize
is a ridiculous waste of my time,
though occasionally good for a laugh.

I instinctually fall to one knee,
and the floor is cold, even through dress pants.
The little window grates open. I see

only shadow behind the wooden mesh.
I can remember the Sign of the Cross
because it’s just like the Konami Code—

up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A,
start talking. Forgive me, Father, for I
have sinned. It has been, uh… quite a few years

since my last confession. I’m not quite sure
how many sins I should accuse myself
of committing. Maybe an impure thought

every seven seconds if statistics
are to be believed. Uh, I’ve coveted
and envied. I take the lord’s name in vain

pretty regularly. And there are things
I know I’m forgetting.
I stop talking.
Silence, first, from the other side, and then,

My son, it’s complicated. Like pizza,
ribs, and ancient treasure maps, people
are most interesting at their burnt edges.

I want you to prepare three paellas
and two tostadas
. I look up, confused.
Father, which book is that from? I ask him.

He responds, unsure, Ecclesiastes?
Near the back.
The unmistakable scent
of charred poblano peppers fills the air,

and then it hits me, sure as the slap of hot
metal spatula across my shocked face,
Oh, god. You’re him. I say. You’re Bobby Flay.

The smell intensifies. I sprinkle
a warding circle of cotija cheese
around myself. You can’t beat me, he says.

I’m going to do my own take on your soul—
ancho chili, honey, smoked paprika,
and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And I’m thinking, Oh, god, what can I do?
Maybe I can try an Asian fusion,
like if I convert to Shintoism

or ask him to make pho, or I can try
to appeal to the judges with classic
flavors and preparation. Just be good,

down-home-country American. Maybe
I can manage that. Maybe have a shot.
My Fitbit buzzes time to get moving.

Good thinking, Fitbit. I burst out of there
to the shock of a nun wandering
by, and rush out into the crowded street,
 
lose myself in a sea of strange faces
and puffy coats. Maybe he will find me
again. Maybe he won’t. But I still start

my prep work early, chopping mirepoix,
the holy trinity of celery,
peppers, onions, leave a twelve-quart stock pot

always boiling on the stove, learn to live
my best life, hug and kiss people hello
and goodbye, tell the truth, surround myself
 
with people who know Bobby well, know how
to take him down. I have brunch with Giada
de Laurentiis, play racketball with Scott

Conant, volunteer at a soup kitchen,
read to sick children, I never scroll past
without typing amen, knead the raw dough

of my soul into something beautiful,
bake it into something worth victory,
something anyone would want to devour.


Chad Frame earned his MFA at Arcadia University. His work has appeared in decomP, Rust+Moth, Menacing Hedge, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and elsewhere. He is the 2017 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the Poetry Editor of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing, and the founder of the MARGINS panel of minority artist voices.