Fudge

I came across the recipe in your old index card box, alphabetically misplaced between Fruitcake and Fritter Batter. “I miss you”, I said aloud as I measured out the sugar, butter, salt and evaporated milk. The cat looked at me expectantly, thinking I was speaking to him. I combined the ingredients in a small pot, boiled and stirred them for five minutes. Outside, the sun tried its best to shine down on weeds turned brown from ice and frost.

I followed your handwriting with my eyes, blue ink letters across a 4 x 6 ruled index card. You had good penmanship, easy to read. The card must have been white when you wrote on it, but now it was one of those nameless colors – the color left behind when someone you love dearly has been gone for years.

I moved on to the next step. Remove from heat, add marshmallows, chocolate chips, chopped walnuts, vanilla extract. “I wish I could hear your voice again”, I thought as I stirred vigorously for one minute. I loved you for who you were. No labeling, no naming. Forget “woman”, forget “grandma”, forget “Ruth”. I loved you just as the person you were, how you saw the world, how you expressed yourself.

I thought about your losses while I poured the mixture into a pan lined with tin foil and set it in the refrigerator. You lost husbands, parents, your daughter, your brother. You lost them all and still you sang and danced and followed this recipe just as I am doing now. All that loss, loss, loss, and still you stirred these ingredients every year, pouring them into a square pan lined with foil.

In a way, it is with your hands that I lift it from the pan once it is chilled. It is with your fingers that I cut it into little pieces. And it is with your heart of hearts that I arrange them on a platter, or in a holiday tin, and give it away.

Wilderwalk

Morning wakes my sleepy head,

and after coffee, eggs and bread,

I wilderwalk the day away

with feathered arms and legs of clay.

 

Quiet greets me like a friend

on seldom trodden paths that bend

through forest, field and golden grass –

how slowly now the time does pass.

 

I listen to the barred owl’s call

and climb upon the woodland wall,

to hold the cloudless sky in sight

and look upon approaching night.

 

Tomorrow I shall do the same,

for ‘tis the meaning of my name

to gather firewood and cook –

to skip a stone and walk alone

beside the babbling brook.

Desire

Desire, you are a celebrity. I read about you in all the magazines.  You’re the star of every movie, the subject of every novel. It must be hard to be so famous, when your heart is the heart of the deep woods – sometimes dark, sometimes bright.

Could I have your autograph? Can I get a picture with you?

At once you comfort and haunt me, as if you were a song of wind chimes on a lonesome gray day. Will you cut my bindings, set food and water before me, make me a naked prophet?

It must be tough, being so different from how the public sees you.

Might you be struck down, left to wither in the shallows of evening, only to be reborn many fathoms deeper down inside the night?

 

“There Ya Go, Boy”

Last time I went to hear myself read I didn’t hear half of what I said.

I am not the kind of person who should be standing up here speaking to you, reading aloud these selections from my unknown, uncelebrated opus. I am neither polite nor deliciously witty. My voice is not especially pleasing. I am not good with enunciation, pronunciation, the cadence of language as it rises, falls, leaping from one’s tongue. You will not develop a crush on the words I choose or the order that I put them in, once I put down the songbird’s chirp of my pen and pick up the Neanderthal club of my voice.

(I’m more the kind of person who finds himself in a café, sitting across from a New Jersey mom who’s in town to drop her kid off at college. She’s holding a five-dollar cup of coffee that’s so large it makes her head look small by comparison. Her breasts sag in a classical way beneath her designer sweater, and I find myself refreshed by the fact that she hasn’t had them done. The man sitting next to her is plugged in to every type of hi-tech communications device available on the market. He finagles all his different settings tirelessly, as a young girl sitting opposite him considers changing her sexual orientation. I glance at the newspaper and my eyes glaze over. I am ready to stop worrying about the whole world. Funny how the less news I read, the more capable I am of truly caring about every human on the planet, rather than just processing all the endless information – there’s a paradox to meditate on. Now if only I could start treating my body like a sit-down restaurant instead of a drive-thru.)

Yes, even here standing before you, I crave my reticent shell the way New Year’s Eve longs for a poignant encounter, a significant chance meeting. Even now I yearn to be lost from inspiration, to renounce words, escape cognitive dissonance, forsake the very thing that holds my bones together, forget the unanswerable koan of my life and go forth to earn a little money – one of the few things not earned in the work of poetry.

When it comes down to it, though, I’m probably more cut out to just sit and look out a window, nursing a hot cup between my hands and watching the snow fall, owning nothing, content with the knowledge that I will likely never amount to much. I’ll just sit with the memory of my grandfather tossing a grilled steak down in front of me – a steak so huge it hung over the sides of the plate with fat and charred gristle along its edge. And those four words he delivered it with, as if I were a trusty dog who’d been sniffing around a hunting camp.

 

Let Me Not Wait

Let me tell you now

how much I will miss you.

Let me not spend another moment

alive on this earth with words unspoken.

Let me not wait until you are gone, as I’ve waited with so many now lost, and narrowed my eyes as withered chances blew past my flushed cheeks, lifted by a sudden wind, leaves in a wheelbarrow, carried back to the place where only a moment before, I gathered them.

As if I were trying to perform a task far too large for me,

something to test the bounds

of my mortal endurance.

 

 

Perceptions of Poetry

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/02/-em-dead-poets-society-em-is-a-terrible-defense-of-the-humanities/283853/

Wow.  What a thought-provoking piece by Kevin J.H. Detmar from last February’s issue of The Atlantic Magazine.  As a longtime lover of the movie I had to release all judgment, and found myself enthralled as a result.  There’s some real food for thought here.  Food that requires a lengthy chew, and may still be hard for some folks to swallow.

And yes, I am a romantic, anti-intellectual lover of the “sentimental humanities”.

 

Culinary Espionage: Tales of a Secret Food Critic, Part 1

So far, so good. I press my palms together in anticipation, watching an elite militia of cooks perform food surgery in a kitchen that’s open to the bar and dining room, hands piping and fiddling and finishing, brows furrowed and glistening. I can smell demi-glace, cioppino, and an obnoxious perfume put on way too liberally by my young perky server.

I gently lift the last bright red petal of bresoula (air-dried beef) from my app plate and put it in my mouth. It dissolves luxuriously; I can hardly feel myself swallow it.

“Service please!” The chef’s voice is appropriately curt, laced with urgency, but not enough to seem overbearing. He rotates the plate in the service window with a critical eye and garnishes it with a tall nest of fried sweet potato threads, silently cursing the server who is still making his way over to the window…