Ode to Bacon (with recording)

Ode to Bacon

How you lend
yourself
to others,

enhancing even
the sweetest fig
in your embrace
over coals,

or consider
your rendered
self, how it

deepens flavor
with piggish
essence, coating

or absorbed,
blended or
sopped. O belly
of delight, o wonder
of tongues,

how could I not
love you
and your infinite
charms, even

when you resist
my efforts and
shoot sizzling bits

of yourself
onto my naked
hands? I pay

this toll
gladly,
today and

next year
and all those
days to follow,

till the last piece
is swallowed
and our sun
goes dark.

Hyperbole
becomes you,
smoked beauty,
salted love,

and I shall never
put you down
or leave you
behind

on a plate
to be discarded
or forgotten,

unloved.

“Ode to Bacon” first appeared here in July 2017, thanks to T.S. Wright’s challenge.

Poet’s Pantry

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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? The pantry’s contents.

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:

photo(13)

This first appeared here in January  2014.

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.

Happy Anniversary, Stephanie!

The Pleasure of the Right Tools

drill

The Pleasure of the Right Tools

Roasting peppers on the grill, I inhale
the odors of freshly sawed lumber
and turned earth. My back and knees
recall the doing, as I rejoice in the memory
of the new maul pounding rebar through
the timber’s holes into the ground.
I place the blackened peppers into a
paper wine bag where they’ll steam.
The saw rests on its shelf next to the
drill. The beer tastes bitter. Perfect.

 

“The Pleasure of the Right Tools” first appeared in Winnow Magazine in July 2020. I am grateful to Rachael Crosbie, Tristan Cody and friends for taking this poem.

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” last appeared here in December 2019. 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. Parosmia has reared its ugly head, and now onions, garlic, bacon, peppers, arugula and hoppy ales among other beloved foods emit odors resembling a mix of raw sewage, mildewed peat moss and burnt wood. Ah, 2020!

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©

Gruyere

 

Gruyere

Thinking of speech and the gruyere sliver
balancing on that blade, which nouns push it over,
which hold it in place. How simplicity defies the complex.
Like the hard-crusted bread of flour, water, salt and yeast.
The elemental surge. A little steam. An incantation
born of emptiness: he speaks but says nothing
as the cheese teeters on the edge, suffering
the plight of the incomprehensible. Funny
that adding more reduces the whole, and less
flavors it. A few words, a spice. A syllable.
Milk and rennet. Verbs. A confident tongue.

 

 

“Gruyere” was published in Nthanda Review, an online literary magazine out of Mawali, in January 2019.

 

 

 

Not Enough, Too Much

 

Not Enough, Too Much

Carved from silence, I return to it.
They say not enough, too much,
never to meet. My tongue craves salt,
flesh seasoned with longing and dust
and the burdens of two separate
exhaustions. They hand me sticks
and say eat. I dip the fork into the
bowl, and looking to the earth
see no roots, only brown feet
refused at the surface. They say
you are the vacant temple. I close
my eyes and sing, become that
unseen pity, that burnt green descent
withering in the lull of the moment before.

 

 

“Not Enough, Too Much” was published in the North Dakota Quarterly in February 2019.

 

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

 

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!