friday feast: quiet, please

Consider this:

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.
(from The Quiet World by Jeffrey McDaniel)

Not a bad idea, if you ask me (but if you don’t, I’ll know you’re saving your words).

Think about it. What would you say, and to whom? 

Having to choose so carefully, maybe our lives could become poems — each word weighted with meaning, each pause — a heart listening, each sequence — a study in metered restraint.

Gossip might cease, as would complaining. No more meaningless interrogation or speculation. No fat to chew, no axe to grind. Imagine a world where words become rare, precious commodities!

Every day, writers struggle to make each word count. Shouldn’t we choose them just as prudently in our daily lives? Could we harness their power to inspire good deeds, replacing their casual utterance with actions worthy of our intent? Then life, like a finely wrought poem, would be a work of art.

I hope you’ll read the rest of The Quiet World here, to find out how the narrator of the poem fared (sigh for romance)!

And just because I’m happy you’re here, here are two excerpts made of words I love. (A happy way to use 69 words of my daily allowance!)

In January
it’s so nice
while slipping
on the sliding ice
to sip hot chicken soup 
with rice.
Sipping once
sipping twice
sipping chicken soup
with rice.
(27 words from Chicken Soup with Rice, by Maurice Sendak)

A sock is a pocket for your toes,

a vase is a pocket
for a rose.

A pocket for a chicken
is a coop,

and a bowl is a pocket full of soup —

A bowl is a pocket spilling soup.
(42 words from A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, by Liz Garton Scanlon)

(serves 6-8)

1 stewing hen, about 5 to 6 pounds
10 cups water
3 tsp salt (or to taste)
6 peppercorns
1 onion
2 celery stalks
2 carrots
2 bay leaves

In a large stockpot put chicken, water, salt, peppercorns, onion, celery, carrots and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is tender, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Skim the fat from the broth. Remove the chicken, discard the skin and bones and cut chicken into bite-size pieces; also remove cooked vegetables, cut into small pieces and return chicken and vegetables to broth. Let cool to room temperature.


1/4 tsp white pepper
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup ice water
4 T shortening
fresh parsley, chopped

In a bowl combine white pepper, flour and shortening; blend with finger tips. Add ice water and mix well. Spoon dough onto a well floured surface and roll it out 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 1-inch x 2-inch rectangles. Shake off excess flour.

Bring the broth to a slow boil, add the dumplings and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Serve in deep soup bowls with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley.

*Noodles or rice may be substituted for the dumplings.

(Adapted from Cooking with Heart in Hand, 1987)

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at Mentor Texts and More.


“See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence;
see the stars, the moon and the sun,
how they move in silence —
we need silence to be able to touch souls.”
                  ~ Mother Theresa


25 thoughts on “friday feast: quiet, please

  1. Oh, swoon. Swoon. Seriously, I love that poem by McDaniel. Best kick of the week thus far. Thank you.
    And now I’ve got Carole King in my head, and I always love reading that great text of Liz’s. I have to say – gasp! – that I’m not a fan of chicken soup, but your recipe does sound different and rather exciting. Maybe it could convert me.
    Jules, 7-Imp


  2. Well, shoot, Jama — thanks! Don’t know that I’m worthy — those are some precious words you’re using up there — but I’m honored. Clever me to have included soup, since you’re a sucker for it 🙂


  3. Can’t decide
    I’m trying to decide if the first poem would fall under dystopian or utopian fiction.
    John Mutford


  4. Friday Feast
    Elaine M. of Wild Rose Reader
    What could be better on a cold, winter Poetry Friday than a serving of Sendak, Scanlon, and hot soup?


  5. Cloudscome says:
    I’d love to learn to teach with that word limit. I’d also love to be able to get my kids dressed, fed and out the door in the early morning with that word limit. A worthy goal to strive for… would it make my life a poem? My kids poets?


  6. Not a fan of chicken soup? How is that possible? I thought EVERYONE was raised on Campbell’s chicken noodle, and comforted, and nursed back to health with a fine bowl even into adulthood.


  7. Re: Can’t decide
    I thought of that, too. Having free speech controlled by the government would be very scary. But I chose not to analyze it with my skeptic’s eye, and instead fell in with the poet’s idealistic, romantic vision.


  8. Re: Cloudscome says:
    Definitely would be quite a challenge. I’m thinking it would force us to use other forms of communication — gesturing/body language, intuition,and, of course, the all-important eye contact. When we really tune in to others, we can read them without speaking.


  9. TadMack says:
    My FAVORITE Sendak poem. My FAVORITE childhood soup. And a Liz poem! Yay!
    I’d never heard the first one. It sounds like it would either be very funny or very disturbing. Or both. I shall track it down!


  10. “The Quiet World” is magnificent.
    Thanks for the Chicken Soup with Rice, Liz’s pocket poem (YAY LIZ!), and the recipe. I may give it a go – it’s similar in some respects to my recipe for Chicken Corn Soup with Rivels.


  11. Ahhh so true! Silence is not valued enough in our world today…If we only had 167 words per day, we’d give more hugs I bet! LOVE this post! Thank you!


  12. Mmm Mmm Good
    Your post today got me in the mood for soup…but I didn’t have the stuff to make chicken soup and it was 12 degrees out and I didn’t want to go to the store…so I made beef stew, does that count? It was yummy. 🙂


  13. John — I vote UTOPIAN! (long, loud week at school is finally over)
    Jama — Love the way you wove all three poems together and the recipe together!
    Mary Lee


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