Theology of Carrots
We hide our best
plumed by ornamental
allowing the wisdom
In my sliver of the world, poetry and cooking share many qualities. When I step into the kitchen, I often have only a vaporous notion of what’s for dinner. A hankering for roasted poblano peppers, the need to use a protein languishing in the refrigerator, the memory of an herbal breeze wafting down a terraced hill near Lago d’Averno, Hell’s entrance, according to Virgil, or even a single intriguing word, may spark what comes next. But the success of what follows depends upon the ingredients at hand, on how we’ve stocked the pantry. Good products beget better results. Let’s take my desire for roasted poblanos. What to do with them? Poking around, I uncover an opened package of goat cheese, a bit of grated grana padano and some creme fraiche, and I immediately think pasta! Looking further I spot arugula, a lemon, a handful of pecans, some cherry tomatoes. Dinner: Pappardelle with a roasted poblano and goat cheese sauce, garnished with toasted pecans, served with an arugula and cherry tomato salad dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. Simple, when you’ve stocked a solid base of quality components.
My writing employs a similar process. Anything – a vague sense of uneasiness, a particular word, the sunlight slanting through the unfortunate dove’s imprint on my window, articles or books I’ve read or perused on a myriad of subjects – may launch a poem. But what truly makes the poem, what bolsters, fills and completes, what ignites and catapults it arcing into the firmament are, of course, the pantry’s ingredients.
Everyone’s needs differ, and I wouldn’t presume to inflict my peculiar sensibilities on anyone, but if you cracked open my burgeoning poetry pantry’s door, you’d certainly unearth dictionaries and a thesaurus, fallen stars, books on etymology and language, curiosity, a guitar or mandolin, at least one window (sometimes partially open), conversations floating in the ether, various empty frames, wind, dog biscuits and dirty socks, a walking stick, sunlight and shadows, more books on such subjects as ancient navigation, the history of numbers, the periodic table, alchemy and olives. You might also spy reams of paper, unspoken words, coffee cups, a scorpion or two, scrawled notes on index cards, wandering musical notes, a pipe wrench, wood ear mushrooms and salvaged fragments of writing, failed ideas moldering in clumps on the floor, a few craft beers and empty wine bottles, a chain saw, and most important of all, a bucketful of patience.
(I cannot over-emphasize the bucket’s contents…)
This is just to say (no, I didn’t eat the plums) that the best equipped poets stock their pantries with the world and all its questions, with logic, with faith, persistence, emotion, science, art, romance and yes, patience. Line your kit with every tool you can grasp or imagine. Keep adding to it. Read deeply. Listen. Breathe. Listen again. Converse. Look outward. Further, past the trees, around the bend and beyond the horizon’s curve, where the unknown lurks. Look again. Don’t stop. Continue.
And if after all this you’re wondering what basks in my kitchen pantry:
This last appeared here in October 2015.
Please note: prepublication sales determine the print run, which means this stage is crucial in terms of how many copies will be printed and the number of copies I’ll receive as payment. So if you feel inclined to help this poet in his commercial endeavor (which does seem a tad strange), and are able, please purchase your copy during this period, which runs through August 11. The book’s tentative release date is October 6.
Ode to Bacon
How you lend
the sweetest fig
in your embrace
self, how it
sopped. O belly
of delight, o wonder
how could I not
and your infinite
when you resist
my efforts and
shoot sizzling bits
onto my naked
hands? I pay
and all those
days to follow,
till the last piece
and our sun
and I shall never
put you down
or leave you
on a plate
to be discarded
With thanks to T.S. Wright, for her challenge.
A History of Particles: Ash, Wood, Shrimp
Unsettled and predisposed
to flight, they
rise. Or, awaiting the process, receive
the glow as prelude to transformation, a
nocturnal exegesis inscribed in flame
and black swirls. Death in the air,
settling upon us. The bitterest
taste. But how to explain
the tongue’s sweet tremor? And the narrow
margins between the transition
from wood to smoke?
At 250 degrees
their pale shells redden,
become vessels of radiant
heat and its attenuated function,
moisture retained so as
to delay and heighten the
delectable flesh, once freed, become
virtue, become fate
sliding down the throat,
the course of deterioration hastened
and endured in perpetuity.
This first appeared on the blog in June 2015.
Chef Mario Batali interviews Jim Harrison in this brief Food & Wine article. I particularly enjoyed Harrison’s take on America’s “big curse,” and his reply to the last question is priceless.
Another attempt at recording. “Roast Chicken” was first published in Kindle Magazine in December 2015, and also appeared in Gossamer: An Anthology of Contemporary World Poetry.
Contemplating the afterlife of birds,
I empty the carcass. My wife
offers rosemary sprigs,
which I stuff into the cavity
with whole garlic cloves
and seared lemon halves,
and then I compact it by tucking
the wings under and pushing
one leg through a slit in the other,
lessening the surface. One might
debate the shape of a bird’s
soul, the sanctity of structure
and limitation, of ritual and
the weight of fire’s gifts in
human brain development,
but trussing is essential
to the goal of proper
I pat it dry, sprinkle kosher salt
on the skin, put it in the oven,
set the timer for an hour, pour wine.
Following custom, we eat
without saying grace.
Piece by tender piece, it descends.