“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” ~ Carl Sandburg
Hello Friends and Hello 2021!
Nice to be back, and I must say, you’re even cuter than you were last year. How is that even possible? Maybe it was all those cookies you ate over the holidays. 😀
I was so happy to toss out 2020 and turn the page on a brand new Susan Branch calendar. Marking the days, weeks, and months with her charming art, quotes, photos, and recipes is how I like to roll. I think of her as a good luck charm; her optimism and positive energy really keep me going.
If January is any indication, we’re all in for a BIG year. Huge challenges, yes, but I’m hopeful that with our new President, Vice President, Democratic Congress and our collective faith in the power of BLUE — we’ll be able to heal, restore, build, and move forward for the good of all.
2021 will be one heck of a feast, and I’m anxious to dig in, so please pass the biscuits!
IN RHAPSODIC PRAISE OF BISCUITS
by Joan Leotta
Biscuits transubstantiate from
buttermilk or Lily brand flour and
Clabber Girl baking powder
into a heavenly delight.
So, it is only right that they
are the first item passed
after prandial prayer.
Plucking one from the basket
passed to me,
my fingers tingle as they brush
the lightly crisped top.
Slowly, I separate the still warm
bread of perfection
into two perfect halves,
tamping down the steam
with a pat of real butter
and a swirl of honey.
I lift one section to mouth
and savor the
sweetness of the topping,
aided and abetted by the salty,
creamy butter amid the
~ from a broadside sponsored by Poetry in Plain Sight (Winston Salem, December 2019)
Though some grow giddy at the mere thought of roast turkey with all the fixins’, for me, Thanksgiving has always been about pie.
Pumpkin pie, to be exact.
Maybe it’s because we only had it once a year. Though we dallied with apple, blueberry, banana cream, custard and pecan at other times, pumpkin pie was largely reserved for Thanksgiving.
To this day, one bite and I’m back in Hawai’i at one of our family potlucks — table laden not only with turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, yams, several hot veggies, and fresh cranberry sauce, but also pineapple glazed ham, steamed rice, makizushi, pork and vegetable lo mein, at least two kinds of kimchi, a retro Jell-O salad, and a roast chicken for Grandma Yang, who did not like turkey.
Yes, we relished every savory mouthful of this lovingly prepared homemade spread, but I always knew, deep down, that the best was yet to come.
Here’s a delectable poem to whet your appetite.
WHEN THE PIE IS COOLING
by Camille A. Balla
I recall the first Thanksgiving
I was designated to be the pumpkin-pie baker
and for years thereafter; pies made
with the excitement of family homecoming --
always making the dough from scratch.
Today I call upon the Pillsbury boy
to make and roll out the circle of dough
which I place into the pan, then add
the traditional filling with just the right
amounts of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
The November chill makes cozy the warmth
from the oven as I await the sweet, spicy aroma,
telling me when the pie is just about done.
How satisfying it is to delight once again
in this simple work of my hands.
I think of the many hands
along the way to my kitchen that made
possible the baking of this pie:
The grower of the pumpkin,
the wheat farmer, the dairy farmer, the egg
the hands that picked the sugar cane.
The hands of workers in a cannery,
of truckers who transport foods to the store,
the hands of the people who shelve ingredients
that come from here or far-off lands.
Hands of people I never met
yet all of them a part -- whether aware or not --
of this pumpkin pie now ready
to be served at my Thanksgiving table.
“Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” ~ Pema Chodron
Hello, good-looking friends. How are you holding up?
Hard to believe it’s already June. It’s certainly been a trying three months! Time to anticipate summer with a little strawberry love. 🙂
As we hunker down in our private spaces, our strength, resilience, faith and patience are being tested as never before. Each day brings a new concern as we reassess our priorities and consider an uncertain future.
Rather than perpetually bemoan forced confinement, we can mindfully pause to carefully consider, with humility and gratitude, the time we are actually being given and the challenge to use it wisely.
I’m here to tell you there is good news: Today, it’s your turn. Wherever you are standing right now, I give this to you:
WHAT IS GIVEN by Ralph Murre
The likelihood of finding strawberries
tiny and wild and sweet
around your ankles
on any given day
in any given place
is not great
people find strawberries
right where they are standing
just because it is their turn
to be given a taste
of something wild and sweet
Every afternoon at two-fifteen they come,
a procession of chairs and walkers,
or unaided in a slow and ponderous shuffle,
backs hunched against the unkindness of time,
to assemble in the great room for tea.
They enjoy this ritual —
the sturdy cups of Orange Pekoe,
cookies and squares that break up a day,
words exchanged, sometimes even heard,
by folk whose paths might not have crossed before.
It’s a slow dance, led by invisible partners.
It’s the last dance, and they’re saving it
for every afternoon at two-fifteen.
Nursing homes have been in the news a lot lately. After all, it was a nursing home — the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington — that first warranted our serious concern about COVID-19’s community spread in the U.S. back in late February.
We learned that the elderly were the most vulnerable, and that many residents as well as caregivers had been lost or were fighting for their lives across the country.
When I stumbled upon this lovely poem by Canadian poet Linda Crosfield recently, I couldn’t help but view it through the lens of the pandemic. The cherished ritual of afternoon tea took on an added poignancy as I thought of those who no longer have the joy of a “last dance” to look forward to.
As it turns out, though, there was a bright spot, a glimmer of hope.
When I contacted Linda to ask for permission to share her poem, she provided a little backstory about it:
I wrote “Tea at Jubilee Manor” when my aunt was living there. It’s a nursing home in Nelson, BC. She died at 102 in 2012. Now my mother is in the same place and she’s turning 100 on June 3rd. Sadly, it won’t be quite the celebration we’d always planned. Can’t see her in person. No hugs. No flowers. Gifts frowned on. But we can send in one of those little airline-sized bottles of gin and some tonic and we will toast her over the fence on the day.
Now the poem is even more meaningful. Though I was sorry to hear Linda and her family won’t be able to celebrate this landmark birthday in person, I was so relieved that her mom is okay and would indeed be observing a rare milestone next week.
Would you like to meet Daisy? Here she is:
Have you ever seen such a beautiful face, such a wonderful smile? Oh, the people she’s met, the things and places she’s seen, the love she’s shared in 100 years! And she’s given us a poet!
Oh, look — it’s 2:15! In honor of Daisy’s birthday on Wednesday, we’ve set up a little afternoon tea. Please help yourself to some marble cake, dark chocolate pretzels, lemon, oat, and chocolate chip cookies, and of course, a warm cup of Orange Pekoe.
If not for Linda’s poem, our paths might never have crossed. Just as her heartening words suggest, we must follow the lead of our wise elders by rejoicing in simple pleasures and cherishing each moment as it comes, with gratitude that it’s been given.
There’s much to be said, especially in tough, unpredictable times, about treating each slow dance as your last.
While you nibble and sip, enjoy this mini gallery of seniors and Samantha Reynolds’s poem, as a way of honoring those we’ve lost, those we’ve found, and those we’ve yet to meet. Not to be forgotten, devalued, discounted or sacrificed, but revered, respected and treasured.
“In the cookie of life, friends are the chocolate chips.” ~ Salman Rushdie
Hello, Poetry-loving Friends!
Hope you’re feeling a little chipper today, because it’s National Chocolate Chip Day!
Thought we’d serve up a little comfort and levity to brighten your weekend. Please help yourself to as many warm-from-the-oven cookies as you like and a tall glass of milk — you certainly deserve it!
A few weeks ago, I received a nice thank you email from New Hampshire poet Jeff Friedman. You may remember that I featured his awesome “Poem for Ross Gay” back in December. I’ve never been quite the same since reading how Ross ate four Athena melons, an entire book of poetry, and all the eggs in the house, while refusing chocolate chip cookies and King Arthur chocolate onyx wafers (cause his body is a temple).
I didn’t need further convincing that Jeff is my kind of poet, but after he mentioned that chocolate chip cookiesare the mainstay of his diet, there is simply no doubt.
So today, another Jeff poem — and yes, there’s chocolatein it. I’ve always wanted to work in or own a bakery. But the narrator in the poem and I just happen to be allergic to the same thing. Wrap your lips around this one, but save me an éclair. 🙂
WORKING IN FLOUR by Jeff Friedman
When I walked into the bakery at my usual time
asking politely for two marble cookies,
a fudgy chocolate drop rising from the chocolate swirls,
Ida Kaminsky, who came from strong Russian stock —
a hearty vegetable stew, spicy meats rolled in
cooked cabbage — winked and asked if I wanted a job.
She offered me two bucks an hour,
half off on the marble cookies, and anything
not sold at the end of the day might also be mine.
I put on an apron, pushed through
the swinging doors to help the bakers.
The smell of flour was thick
and tree pollen spotted the windows.
Tall and freckled, Max, the other assistant,
squeezed my hand, “I’ll show you what to do.”
He taught me how to use the cake decorator,
how to prepare the éclairs and put them in their doilies,
then pointed out the brooms and mops, the industrial
strength cleansers, the double sink
with rubber hoses coiled in it. “You don’t want
paste to harden in the bowls.”
From across the room, where he scooped chocolate chip
cookie batter onto a baking tray, Julius, the baker,
snapped, “Make sure you tell him: Everything
has to be spick-and-span.” The flies heard him
and flew off the lip of the sink toward the light fixtures.
Soon I began sneezing, my hapless ahchoos
running down spotted walls, glistening
on my face and hands as I pumped the custard
through a nozzle into the delicate éclair rolls.
Later, when I worked on cleaning the floors,
Max yelled at me for spreading the dirt
in circles with my mop.
I stepped back, kicking over the bucket of lye.
All in a day’s work, I thought.
The next morning, Ida Kaminsky cornered me,
“I liked you better as a customer.”
I folded my apron neatly without arguing back
picked up my bag of cookies
and walked out into the bright spring air,
where now I understood my mother’s comment,
“You’re allergic to work” and where, for a moment,
I stopped sneezing.
Now, please leave your poetry-related links below with the charming and debonair Mr. Linky. Take some chocolate chip cookies with you, and enjoy your little foray around the blogosphere as you savor all the wonderful posts. Happy Poetry Friday, and thanks for joining us!
More cookies for the road compliments of the resident bakers:
“I love watching keep-fit videos while munching chocolate chip cookies.” ~ Dolly Parton
“If I had any choice in the matter, I’d stay in my comfy bed and eat warm chocolate chip cookies all day.” ~ Simone Elkeles
“I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.” ~ Nora Ephron