Viscosity is always a consideration, as is definition:
traditionally a sauce composed of meat juices and
thickeners, or, a sediment of melted tallow, which
somehow brings to mind a laborer rising early after
a hard night, eating red-eye, made of fried ham
drippings and coffee, served over grits. Or perhaps
an egg gravy – a béchamel sauce flavored by bacon,
with water and milk, and an egg – ladled over butter-
rubbed biscuits. But then I picture my vegetarian
friends pushing away from plates of this fine repast,
and not wishing to deny them or those following a vegan
lifestyle, we turn to roasted vegetables with broth, oils
and wine and a savory yeast extract. But I can’t fathom
a life without giblet gravy, which features the neck and
offal of fowl, including the liver, the taste of which may
be too strong for other recipes using giblets, an interesting
word in itself, from the Old French for a game-bird stew,
and the Middle English meaning of an inessential
appendage, or entrails, morphing to garbage. I would
never throw out an onion gravy, essentially a thick sauce
of slow-cooked onion and stock or wine, and admit to
having tasted a cream version with the consistency and
flavor of diluted paste, indicating a lack of balance in
flavor and poor roux-making technique. My favorite
would be an Italian-American buddy’s gravy, his word
for a rich ragù of sausage, braised beef and shredded
pork, red wine, tomatoes and herbs, served over pasta.
This of course stretches the definition of the word, but
language is elastic, is it not? So it flows, as does the gravy.
“As the Gravy Flows” was drafted during the August 2016 30/30 Challenge. Thank you to Lady Phoenix for sponsoring the poem and providing the title!
Waiting, I open myself but nothing enters. Even music’s comfort avoids me, preferring calmer ports or perhaps another’s wind choices. I drop the weighted cord through the flute, pull it, and watch the cloth ease out. Some days pain drags behind me no matter what words emerge, what phrases follow. Last night brought the season’s first fireflies. This wall of books grows taller each day.
How do we poets measure success? When I first started writing I believed that getting a handful of poems published in journals would provide that measure. Within a couple of years that belief morphed into publishing in better journals, and perhaps someday having editors ask to see my work. Then I thought chapbook publication would indicate achievement, as would having work accepted by a few “unattainables” — those journals that publish “THE GREATS,” not mere mortals like us. And of course winning contests and prizes would prove real success, as would full-length book publication. I’ve checked off all of those standards but one — full-length book publication — and still feel, well, lacking. The goal line keeps shimmering ahead, and likely always will. All this is to say that I have three poems up at Evergreen Review, an unattainable if ever there was. I must admit to feeling a moment of panic when Evergreen Review poetry editor Jee Leong Koh’s announcement email arrived this morning. “Are these poems good enough?” I asked myself. “Who am I, and how the hell did I ever think my work belonged there?” As I said, the goal line keeps moving, and I don’t know if true success in the poetry world, whatever that is, will ever welcome me. But this morning’s breakfast of pancetta-scrambled eggs and toast was delicious, if I say so myself. So I have that!