Baking Bread

 

Baking Bread

I would knead you in the afternoon,
in the warmth of a still room,
starting high at the shoulders,
one finger sliding down your spine,

my lips following, tracing the path
of a hummingbird’s flight. Oh, my love,
circumstance and distance, floods and
wildfires, will never truly douse our light.

I wait as the dough rises, and think
in the languages of yeast and water
and flour and salt, how my hands

will feel at your waist, how our day
falls into night, our love firming,
ever expanding through the rising heat.

* * *

“Baking Bread” first appeared in Ristau: A Journal of Being in January 2019. Many thanks to editor Bob Penick for taking this piece.

Onions

image

Onions

My knife never sings but hums instead when withdrawn from its block, a metallic whisper so modest only the wielder may hear it. Or perhaps the dog, who seems to enjoy the kitchen nearly as much as I. A Japanese blade, it’s a joy to hold, perfectly balanced, stainless steel-molybdenum alloy, blade and handle of one piece, bright, untarnished, and so sharp as to slide through, rather than awkwardly rupture and divide, its next task on the board.

We’ve never counted the chopped and rendered onions, the fine dice, slender rings and discarded skins, but if we could gather all the corpses we’ve produced together over the years, we’d form a monument to our work, cooperation of metal and man, a Waterloo mound in memory of the bulbs laid there, the planning involved, the missteps and serendipity, and the tears shed along the way.

The blade doesn’t care. It is. It works. It moves things, it lifts, it parts them, and in return is cleansed, and later, in the quiet room, maintains its edge with a silvery rasp, angled steel on steel in a circular motion, over and over, until finally it hums its way back into the block. But it never sings.

image

“Onions” first appeared here in 2015. Hmm. This reminds me (again) that I need to sharpen knives…

Alas, my bout with COVID-19 has rendered me incapable of, or unwilling to, cut into onions. COVID-induced parosmia is still affecting me, and onions and garlic are still difficult to eat. But at least bacon, peppers, arugula, chocolate, and hoppy ales are once again palatable. Damned pandemic!

Osso Buco

file00029145808

 

Osso Buco

The reconciled, the residue of one’s
virtues displayed or absorbed

that within become the basis for
talk: furtive movements, the knife’s

gentle persuasion, wine
afforded the quality of enhancement.

We must preserve the truth, and other
disingenuous phrases, as if we may

admit our tastes only at great cost
to our politics and sense of being.

And fruitful loss – the reduction
sauce, or stock evaporated – which

attaches in dissipation
the grace of subtlety. To be more

with less. To be apparent yet
concealed. To be, in turn, aware.

 

file00092920180

“Osso Buco” first appeared here in March 2015.

 

Chilled Soba

Chilled Soba

I am not
philosophical
today,

but hunger
concerns me.
Oh, not

real hunger
but a desire
to consume.

Afternoon
chews morning.
Evening

swallows afternoon.
Morning digests
night. And I,

slurping chilled
soba with
pickled ginger

and scallion,
wonder which verb
my days will choose.

 

 

“Chilled Soba,” first appeared in Kikwetu: A Journal of East African Literature in November 2018. I am grateful to the editors for accepting my poem.

 

 

A Cheese Omelet at Midnight

cracking eggs

 

A Cheese Omelet at Midnight

You can’t ever leave without saying something,
no matter how insipid. That sweater looks good
on you. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. I’m sorry
I burned the omelet. Nasdaq has plunged 3% 

since last week. And I, in return, can’t let you go without
replying in equal measure. It matches your eyes. I love
to smell rain in August. That cheddar was delicious.
Maybe I’ll start a savings account. Next month.

So I wash dishes when you’re gone, wipe down the
counters, pour salt into the shaker, grab a book, join my
cat in bed. This tune’s been overplayed, the grooves’re
worn down. Maybe next time I’ll say what I mean,

tell you what I want: It would look better in a heap
on the floor. How about a shower here, tonight? Kiss
me and I’ll never think of it again. I don’t give a rat’s
ass about the stock exchange. Step away from that door!

I’ll make your lunch, butter your 7-grain toast, assemble
your IKEA furniture, balance your books, even dye
my hair pink, tattoo a pig on my thigh and drink light beer
in your honor, if you would agree to say what’s on your

mind. On second thought, don’t. Tell me, instead,
what I want to hear, but make it heart-felt. Truthful
and direct. Poached but earnest. Hard-boiled but tender.
I’ll cook your eggs. Invest in me. You’ll earn interest.

 

* * *

This originally appeared in August 2015, as the 25th offering in the Tupelo Press 30-30 fund raiser. Thank you, Pleasant Street, for sponsoring this.

 

Asparagus omelet MGD©

As the Gravy Flows

 

As the Gravy Flows

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!

 

Which Poet, Which Beer?

file6671234665917

I’m staring at the flight of beers that Jon has placed in front of me. On the left I find Real Ale Brewing Company’s Phoenixx Double ESB. Next to it rests Ranger Creek’s Saison Oscura, followed by Revolver Brewing’s High Brass Golden Ale, and finally, Southern Tier Brewing’s Creme Brulee Stout. I sip the Phoenixx ESB, and am delighted to find it just as I remembered: dry, but sweet, without being overly bitter. Rich, deceptive, caramely odor, amber color. Overtones, hidden layers. I immediately think of Cole Swensen and her book Try, my real introduction to her work, how she reflects tone and imagery, perception and language, intricately weaving them into patterns, into narrative bits to be experienced and savored. “There’s a world out there that isn’t there,” the Phoenixx, evidently a fan of Cole Swensen, whispers.

I linger over the last sip of the ESB, and move on to the Saison Oscura, which quite frankly, surprises me. And that’s good. My preferences edge towards the bitter, and most of the saisons I’ve tried have finished a tad fruity and sweet for my palate. Not so with Ranger Creek’s rendition. Its beguiling light body, with notes of pepper and spice, end with just the right note of bitterness. But which poet, which book would I pair with this dark saison? Someone who juggles the lyrical with harsh realism, whose voice blends and releases the bitter, the forsaken, in distilled snippets of striking clarity. Ah, yes. I have just the book, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and the line:

The whole world tastes like salt,

crows overhead shout, Gone, gone
gone. She can’t help me any more.
I’ll have to walk.

It’s much more difficult to pair the Revolver Brewing High Brass Golden Ale with a favorite poet, because, sadly, I find it lacking. It’s light in the mouth, and, to take Gertrude’s quote totally out of context, there is no there there. If I’m to choose a blonde ale, I’d much prefer Real Ale Brewing’s Fireman’s #4. But waste not, want not. I down it, and consider which poet would not only transcend this disappointment, but also hand it a one-way ticket to, perhaps, Stein’s lost Oakland? Easy. G.C. Waldrep, whose Goldbeater’s Skin sets its barbed hooks into my flesh each time I open it. And for this particular occasion, I find no poem more appropriately titled than “What Begins Bitterly Becomes Another Love Poem,” in which he writes:

We stood without shadows on asphalt at midday.
What we call patience is only fire again, compressed.

And fire should accompany Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout. A crackling fire fending off the icy, shingle-ripping wind, with Miles Davis echoing in the background, an exquisite meal resting comfortably in the belly, and the pleasure of knowing that the book you’re about to dip into is an endless well. Quite simply, it’s a liquid dessert. Light coffee, a tad chocolatey, with big vanilla. Medium body, sweet. Smells like creme brulee. Tastes like it. But it’s beer. It tells the truth, but tells it slant! And who better to accompany this frothy delight than Emily Dickinson?

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise…

Onward to the next flight, and more truth. More poetry. More beer. More surprise!

photo(14)

This last appeared on the blog in 2018.

Strollermelon

 

 

Strollermelon

In the summer I roll them from grocer to bus stop, little bonnets
affixed, cooing all the while – cantaloupe, watermelon, honey dew,
casaba, canary, sugar, you name it, they all come home with me,
in pairs or solo, snuggled tightly in blankets and ensuring
dropped-jaw, raised-eyebrow gapes from those who approach.
Don’t they look just like their mother, I ask, and no one ever disagrees.
Everybody is so nice, even the teen-age boys who no longer offer up
their seats. But Damon, who recently purchased new pants to impress
Wanda-I’m-An-Attorney, enjoys whispering secrets to us. Did you
know they’re actually berries? And that some are called fruit,
others, vegetables? They’re not much good for pies, though. I just
call them “Mel,” which is funny because I know that you’re not
supposed to name something you’re going to eat, and really, I do
recognize the difference between sentient beings and plants, but
then candidate Harumph comes to mind, and how do you explain
him and his followers? When cool weather approaches, I turn to
squash. Happy acorn, the elongated, sad butternut, pumpkin. Each
holds a niche in my heart, and I love strolling down the sidewalk
with them, humming tunes, adjusting stems, planning meals.

 

* * *

“Strollermelon” was first drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was published in Quiet Letter in April 2017. Thanks to Plain Jane for providing the odd title. One never knows what’ll arise from sponsored titles!

 

Ode to Being Placed on Hold

phone

 

Ode to Being Placed on Hold

The music rarely
entertains,
but I find
peace between
the notes,
sometimes,
and embrace
the notion that
I’ve been inserted
in that peculiar
capsule between
speech and the
void, imagining
myself somewhere,
floating, free
of care and
gravity,
beer can
satellites
orbiting my head,
with bites of
pungent cheeses
and baguette
circling in
their wake,
a gift, you see,
like rain in
August or
a warm voice
saying hello.

 

* * *

“Ode to Being Placed on Hold” was drafted during the Tupelo Press 30-30 marathon in August 2015. Many thanks to Mary “marso” of the blog “marsowords” who sponsored and provided the title. The poem has also appeared here several times.

 

cheese

 

A History of Particles: Ash, Wood, Shrimp

image

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.

image

This first appeared on the blog in June 2015.