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Help yourself to tea and a world peace cookie.

When is a cookie more than just a cookie?

In Jeff Gundy’s chewy list poem, we are invited to look at ourselves and ponder questions about life and faith. Despite our fortunes and failings, and the many labels we might use to separate ourselves from others, we are beloved by a benevolent being who delights in us all just as we find joy and grace through him.

via Makoto Kagoshima

THE COOKIE POEM
by Jeff Gundy

“Here are my sad cookies.”

The sad cookies. The once and future cookies.
The broken sweet cookies. The cookies
of heartbreaking beauty. The stony cookies
of Palestine. The gummy and delicious
olive and honey cookie. The pasty
damp cookie trapped in the child’s hand.

Sad cookies, weird cookies, slippery
and dangerous cookies. Brilliant helpless
soiled and torn cookies, feverish and sweaty
cookies. Sullen cookies, sassy cookies,
the cookies of tantrum and the cookie of joy
and the sweet dark cookie of peace.

The faithful cookie of Rotterdam. The wild-eyed
cookie of Muenster. The salty Atlantic cookie.
Cookies in black coats, in coveralls,
in business suits, cookies in bonnets
and coverings and heels, cookies scratching
their heads and their bellies, cookies utterly
and shamelessly naked before the beloved.

Cookies of the Amish division, cookies
of the Wahlerhof, cookies of Zurich and
Strassburg and Volhynia and Chortitza,
Nairobi Djakarta Winnipeg Goshen.
Cookies who hand their children off
to strangers, who admonish their sons
to remember the Lord’s Prayer, cookies
who say all right, baptize my children
and then sneak back to the hidden church anyway.
Cookies who cave in utterly. Cookies
who die with their boots on. Cookies
with fists, and with contusions.
The black hearted cookie. The cookie with issues.
Hard cookies, hot cookies, compassionate
conservative cookies, cookies we loathe
and love, cookies lost, fallen, stolen,
crushed, abandoned, shunned. Weary
and heroic cookies, scathingly noted cookies,
flawed cookies who did their best.
Single cookies, queer cookies, cookies of color,
homeless cookie families sleeping in the car,
obsolete cookies broken down on the information
highway. Sad cookies, silent cookies,
loud cookies, loved cookies, your cookies,
my cookies our cookies, all cookies
God’s cookies, strange sweet hapless cookies
marked each one by the Imago Dei,
oh the Father the Son the Mother the Daughter
and the Holy Ghost all love cookies,
love all cookies, God’s mouth is full
of cookies, God chews and swallows and flings
hands wide in joy, the crumbs fly
everywhere, oh God loves us all.

~ from Rhapsody with Dark Matter (Bottom Dog Press, 2000).

via Gourmet Mom On-the-Go

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via AHA

PRODUCE AISLE
by Rebecca McClanahan

The artichoke keeps her distance.
She has been taken too many times. Now
the armadillo armor hides her secret heart.

Everyone counts on the onion, staple of stews
and pottage. But deep in the crowded bin, her skin
is thin as moth wing. It peels away before their eyes.

Green peppers are modern women who take
their muscles seriously. They hunch their shoulders,
broad, shiny beneath a fluorescent sun.

Close by in cellophane the carrots keep for weeks,
the last to lose their figures. All legs,
tapering to slim ankles–and above,

wild profusion of hair. They gather in knots
of conversation and whisper about the apples,
those aging showgirls who didn’t know when to quit,

redheads buffed an unnatural blush, a shine
that shouts forever while inside the white flesh softens.
In the center aisle, bananas in bunches

curl like firm young girls in sleep. Soon they will turn
like their half-price sisters, learn the bruise,
dark print that begins beneath the skin and grows.

Oh to be the avocado! She ages so well.
Time makes love to her daily, finding her sweeter
the softer she grows. Beside her the potato,

peasant woman in brown, comes into her own slowly.
She stays in the shadows, blindly remembers
her place. Come to me! I will make you whole!

coos the eggplant mother. And from the corner bin
a chorus: Oranges, Oranges, Oranges, Oranges.
We are what we seem. We speak our own name.

*

~ Posted by permission of the author, copyright © 1989 Rebecca McClanahan, from Mrs. Houdini (UP of Florida).

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Well, grocery shopping will never be the same. I mean, who knew? :)

Love the whimsy in this poem, but also the relatable truths. What lies beneath, when you peel away the layers? Many of us are simply not what we seem. Since the items described here are all female, do you think women conceal more of their true selves than men do? And what interesting statements about aging — for sure, I’d like to be an avocado.

I can think of someone I know in real life who matches each of these fruit and vegetable personality types. Which do you most identify with?

While you’re contemplating that, enjoy this little gallery of reimagined fresh produce:

Portraits by Shalmor Avnon Amichay/Y&R Interactive

Cafe M Food Sculptures by Carl Kleiner

via Techno Crazed

 

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Rebecca McClanahan’s tenth book is THE TRIBAL KNOT,: A MEMOIR OF FAMILY, COMMUNITY, AND A CENTURY OF CHANGE. She has also published five books of poetry and a suite of essays, THE RIDDLE SONG AND OTHER REMEMBERINGS, winner of the Glasgow prize in nonfiction. Her three books of writing instruction include WORD PAINTING: A GUIDE TO WRITING MORE DESCRIPTIVELY, which is used as a text in numerous writing programs. For more, check out her official website.

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HAPPY NEWS

Big Congratulations to Diane DeCillis! Her debut poetry book, STRINGS ATTACHED, was just named a 2015 Michigan Notable Book! Hers was one of 20 books selected for this honor by the Library of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Education. You may remember when I shared “Music from Another Room” and “Last Night I Dreamed I Stole the Croissants” from this book as well as Diane’s hummus recipe. If you still haven’t seen STRINGS ATTACHED, treat yourself to a copy to celebrate the New Year. It’s a rich, sumptuous feast of words, impressions, and ideas sure to satisfy your literary palate.

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poetryfriday180The lovely and talented Irene Latham is hosting the Roundup at Live Your Poem. Is she an onion or an orange? Stroll over to peruse the full menu of poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere this week. If you go grocery shopping this weekend, be sure to pay close attention to the tomatoes.

Yours truly,

Miss Potato, née Banana
xoxoo

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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AFTER THE HOLIDAYS,
by Barbara Crooker

the house settles back into itself,
wrapped up in silence, a robe
around its shoulders. Nothing
is roasting in the oven or cooling
on the countertops. No presents
are waiting to be wrapped, no cards
fill the mouth of the mailbox.
All is calm, all is bright, sunlight
glinting off snow. No eggnog, no yule
log, no letters to be licked
and stamped. No more butter
cookies, no more fudge, just miles
to go on the treadmill, another round
plate added to the weight machine.
All our good intentions pave the road.
We stride out into the new year,
resolute to become firm, to define
our muscles, to tighten our borders.
The thin tinsel of the new moon
hangs in the dark sky, a comma
dividing the sentence between
last year’s troubles and this year’s
hopes. The calendar ruffles her pages,
a deck of shiny cards, deals out
a fresh new hand.

~ from Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014)

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Happy New Year!

It’s nice to be back after a relaxing holiday break, and I can’t think of a better way to welcome 2015 than with two lovely poems by the inimitable Barbara Crooker.

As a longtime fan, I’ve shared more of her poems here than of those by any other poet. And with good reason: time and again, I am stunned by the lyrical beauty and emotional resonance of her work, its reassuring accessibility and seamless architecture.

A new Barbara book is always cause for celebration, so imagine my delight when I learned she has not one, but TWO new books out — Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems (Future Cycle Press, 2015) and Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014), which  includes today’s poems.

The 50+ poems in Small Rain explore the cycle of the seasons: Corvid (Winter), Passerine (Spring), Tangerine (Summer), and Amaryllis (Fall). Each beautifully crafted gem brims with Barbara’s keen observations of the natural world. Intimate glimpses of bird, flower, tree and sky elucidate the heartening aspects of wonder and reverence in the presence of loss, regret, and aging. I especially appreciate the gentle reminders to stop, look, and love our world despite what we are doing to it, and to strengthen our resolve to embrace joy.

I thought of my own mother when I read “Dianthus.” She showed me my first Sweet Williams, and I’ve liked them every since. Enjoy today’s poignant bouquet. May the fragrance of sweet remembrances and renewal grace your days this new year.

Pink Dianthus by AnnA Eckstein

DIANTHUS

My mother comes back as a dianthus,
only this time, she’s happy, smelling like cloves,
fringed and candy-striped with a ring of deep rose
that bleeds into the outer petals. She dances
in the wind without her walker, nods pinkly
to the bluebells. She breathes easily, untethered
to oxygen’s snaking vines. Lacking bones,
there’s nothing left to crumble; she’s supple,
stem and leaf. No meals to plan, shop for, prepare;
everything she needs is at her feet, more rich and moist
than a chocolate cake. How much simpler
it would have been to be a flower in the first place,
with nothing to do but sit in the sun and shine.

~first published in Louisiana Literature

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via bhg

Dianthus Plumarius via Annie’s

Dianthus “Chiba Cherry Picotee”

Dianthus “Sugar Plum” via Garden Drum

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Barbara on “Dianthus”:

Someone (Mom was a little foggy towards the end) brought her a pot of Sweet Williams when she was in the nursing home (it was probably one of her hospice visitors), and she wanted me to take them home and enjoy them. With some trepidation, I planted them outside, and the fact that they’ve come back every summer for the past six years makes me feel (irrationally) like this is keeping her alive, which, of course, she is, in my heart.

About the first poem:

‘After the Holidays’ was written some years ago, but I think I feel the same way every New Year — I love the holidays, but by January first, enough is enough, and I also love getting back to clean living and a healthier lifestyle, plus I love putting my house back in order. It’s all good.

♥ Thank you, Barbara, for granting me permission to post your poems. I’m looking forward to reading and sharing something from Selected Poems too!

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poetryfriday180The always warm and welcoming Tabatha Yeatts is hosting the Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week and have a good weekend!

 

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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poetry friday

Join us for Poetry Friday!

Share anything poetry related — original or favorite poems by others, poetry book reviews, musings, teaching ideas, videos, even song lyrics! Read Susan Thomsen’s article at the Poetry Foundation to learn more. Leave your link with the designated host each week.

January
2   Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
9   Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
16 Irene at Live Your Poem
23 Tara at A Teaching Life
30 Paul at These 4 Corners

February

6   Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass
13 Cathy at Merely Day by Day
20 Linda at TeacherDance
27 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
March
6   Robyn at Robyn Campbell
13 Laura at Author Amok
20 Catherine at Reading to the Core
27 Jone at Check it Out
April
3   Amy LV at The Poem Farm
10 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
17 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
24 Renee at No Water River
May
1   Ellen at Space City Scribes
8   Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
15 Diane at Random Noodling
22 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
29 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
June
5   Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
12 Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup
19 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
26 Carol at Carol’s Corner

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*Special thanks to Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for organizing the Poetry Friday Roundup schedule twice a year.

** A permanent link to this Roundup Schedule may be found in the sidebar of this blog.

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ALTERNATIVE SANTA: A CHRISTMAS POEM
by Roger McGough

‘I’m fed up looking like Father Christmas,’
Muttered Father Christmas one year
‘I need a new outfit, I must move with the times
So for a start, it’s goodbye reindeer’

He googled Alternative Santas
And was amazed at the stuff that appeared
He got rid of the holly-red costume
Had a haircut, and shaved off his beard

Spent his days in front of a computer
In a cave hollowed out of the ice
Wearing a tee shirt emblazoned Merry Xmas
And jeans (Amazon, Armani, half price)

Couldn’t wait to straddle his snow-ped
(The bargain he’d bought on eBay)
A rocket-powered silver toboggan
His supersonic sleigh

Then one morning he thought, ‘Oh why bother
Delivering presents by hand
When it could all be done online
Busy parents will understand

We are lucky to live in a digital age
Where the aim is access and speed
SantaNet I’ll call the system
‘Santafaction guaranteed’

And that was years and years ago
Times that children barely know
Midnight mass and mistletoe
Christmas carols and candle glow

Sleigh bells ringing across the snow
And Santa singing Yo ho ho
For that was years and years ago
And that was years and years ago.

~ This poem first appeared in The Telegraph (December 2013).

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Ho Ho Ho!

This poem made me smile and nod knowingly, but also wax nostalgic.

Who doesn’t love cyber shopping? Whose eyeballs don’t gleefully roll in their sockets at the words, “FREE SHIPPING”? Yay for the convenience of comparison shopping with just a few clicks, the ability to purchase online one day and find the spoils on your doorstep the next!

But SIGH. When it comes to Santa, I want him to stay exactly the same.

I need his holly-red suit, flowing white beard, and all his reindeer. I need this iconic symbol of joy, wonder, and magic to rekindle those happy childhood memories during a season when we inevitably think of those who are less fortunate, who can’t be or are no longer with us.

I’m so grateful we went to Hawai’i last year to celebrate Christmas with my family. It was my mother’s last, and though she’d been declining for awhile, none of us could have predicted she’d be gone just three months later. I baked several of her favorite treats — Russian Tea Cakes, Almond Christmas Trees, and Walnut Refrigerator Cookies. Whenever she knew I was coming, she’d remind me to bake Refrigerator Cookies for my brother since those are his favorite. But she liked them too. :)

Auntie Ella and Margaret

During the holidays, I also think about one of my mother’s younger sisters, Auntie Ella. Unlike my mother, she was an avid baker and usually made gingerbread boys and fruit cakes and rafts of cookies. Who can forget her caramel popcorn balls wrapped in Saran?

When I was growing up, my mother’s family took turns hosting the Christmas Day gathering — a joyous, talky potluck usually featuring turkey, ham, Chinese noodles, sushi, a Jell-O-mold, salads, mashed potatoes, hot veggies, kimchi, pies, cakes and fruit punch with 7-Up and orange sherbet. After lunch we played games and got all excited over the prizes we’d won. The “big” door prize was often a 100-lb bag of rice. My favorite prize was a transistor radio I received for winning the limbo competition at Uncle Joe and Auntie Gladys’s house (one of the few times it was advantageous being short). :)

When we were little we were blessed with lots of presents from aunties and uncles (my mother was one of 12 children, my father one of 6). Among the most memorable:  a 3-foot Ruthy Doll from Uncle Myung Ho and Auntie Susan, a beautiful lacy yellow cardigan (my first with covered buttons) from Uncle Charlie and Auntie Suney, a white wicker purse from Auntie Lily. We anxiously waited for our annual share of Auntie Esther’s scrumptious homemade cookies and the 5-lb box of See’s Candies Uncle Stan and Auntie Kyung Sin sent us every year from California. Grandma Yang was fond of slipping us some pin money along with a box of Hershey kisses.

Of course all this Christmas noshing and partying was just a warm-up for New Year’s, always held at Grandma Yang’s, always featuring dumpling soup — a two-day marathon of serious eating when we kids ran wild doing whatever we pleased while our parents were busy playing poker (did I ever mention that I was asked to leave that part out of my original Dumpling Soup manuscript?).

My mom prepared her last New Year’s feast two years ago. At 88, she was still a champion chopper with hands that smelled of garlic, a tireless, generous cook who always made extra so everyone could take something home. Cooking, her special way of showing love, was so integral to her identity that she became somewhat despondent when failing health forced her to stop.

Fork over the cookies!

Speaking of Santa and rekindling childhood memories, I only vaguely remember meeting Santa once, and there wasn’t any discussion of whether I’d been naughty or nice, or what was on my Christmas wish list. Judging from the only surviving Santa photo in our family album, I was quite terrified of the man in the red suit. Now, if he’d offered me a few sugar cookies we could have become fast friends. :)

Despite my early Santa trauma, I still believe in him, the spirit of Christmas, and the value of giving. Every day I still wish for peace on earth, good will towards men, and a time when all colors and stripes of human beings can live together in harmony. And if only we could somehow slow things down so kids can retain their innocence a little while longer!

But we are rich with Christmases past, striving to make Christmases present and future the best they can be. And yes, it’s too easy to lose sight of what really matters. So, bring on the “midnight mass and mistletoe/Christmas carols and candle glow/Sleigh bells ringing across the snow . . . ”

As much as I love my laptop, I mourn our loss of humanity, our allegiance to electronic screens vs. real face-to-face contact marked by kindness and respect. People are not machines.

This will be my final post of 2014, an eventful year marked by sadness as well as joy. I have lost one parent, but the other will celebrate his 100th Christmas next week. Thank you for spending some time here this past year — for your likes, comments and discussions, for always arriving hungry. As before, there will always be a place for you at the Alphabet Soup table, and we’ve much to look forward to in the New Year — cool author and illustrator interviews, reviews, delicious recipes, Indie Artist Spotlights, poetry, tea, Paddington movie, Colin Firth, Downton Abbey!

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or all three — enjoy and be merry!

May all your holiday wishes come true. Make some good memories, like “years and years ago,” worthy of the years to come.

See you in a bit. :)

♥,

Jama, Mr. Cornelius, and 30-something Paddingtons
xoxoxo

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CATCH THAT COOKIE GIVEAWAY WINNER!

We’re pleased to announce that Anna E. Jordan has won a signed copy of Catch That Cookie by Hallie Durand and David Small. Congratulations, Anna! Please send your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, and we’ll send your prize out to you today!! Thanks to everyone for entering this surprise giveaway, and thanks to Hallie and David for donating the book :)!

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poetryfriday180The inimitable, immensely talented Buffy Silverman is hosting today’s Roundup at Buffy’s Blog (I love the name “Buffy”). Put on your elf shoes and scamper over to check out the full menu of poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere this week.

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I leave you with this beautiful rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” (“Ellen’s Third Song”) sung in German by American vocalist Barbara Bonney. I had only heard it sung in Latin before and didn’t realize it was originally part of Schubert’s Opus 52, seven poems loosely translated from Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem, The Lady of the Lake. This sublime, soul-stirring piece is definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed by holiday craziness. It will comfort, make you remember, give you hope. ★

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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