munching on “Short-Order Cook” by Jim Daniels

“Man who invented the hamburger was smart; man who invented the cheeseburger was a genius.” ~ Matthew McConaughey

 

“Cheeseburger” by Tjalf Sparnaay (oil on linen, 2012)

 

SHORT-ORDER COOK
by Jim Daniels

An average joe comes in
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.

I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He pays.
He ain’t no average joe.

The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop, spit spit  . . .
pssss . . .
The counter girls laugh.
I concentrate.
It is the crucial point —
they are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fried done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
Thirty cheeseburgers! Thirty fries!
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success.
Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries.

~ from Places/Everyone (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1985)

“Bakje Patat” by Tjalf Spaarnay (oil on linen, 1999)

 

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Nothing beats the good feeling of a job well done. As Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield once said, “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”

Flipping burgers, a minimum wage job — nothing out of the ordinary. Yet it’s not every day one is asked to fill a thirty cheeseburger/thirty fries order, and I like how this particular short-order cook pulled if off with such aplomb.

Not letting the counter girls distract him, keeping his nerves in check, orchestrating every move as he jockeys burgers, cheese, buns, fries, wrapping and bagging — quite a feat. He had a system and it worked. Yes, he should be proud, munch on that ice and do a little dance!

There is no job too small to warrant our full attention. We make our own rewards. Chances are, none of the counter girls could have done what the short-order cook did, or as well. Sure, he had probably cooked dozens of cheeseburgers before, just not thirty all at once. But when the need arose, everything he had done up until then prepared him to meet that challenge.

The masterful cheeseburger and fries paintings in this post were created by Dutch megarealistic artist Tjalf Spaarnay. Yes, they look like photos, and give us the chance to re-examine ordinary foods we take for granted. I love how he has elevated fast food, showing it off in beautiful, meticulous, mouthwatering detail (french fries just happen to be Spaarnay’s favorite).

In his poem, Jim Daniels gave the often overlooked or undervalued fast food worker a moment in the spotlight, a good reminder to relish small victories because they keep us going and growing.

Okay, now I really want a cheeseburger with fries . . . and a little dessert, of course. 🙂

“De moorkop,” by Tjalf Spaarnay (2009)

 

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 🎉 BOOK GIVEAWAY WINNERS! 🎈

We are pleased to announce the following giveaway winners:

For a copy of DREAMING OF YOU by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Aaron DeWitt, the winner is:

 🎨 DIANE MAYR!! 🌺

And for a signed copy of DUMPLING SOUP by Jama Kim Rattigan and Lillian Hsu-Flanders + a $50 Amazon gift card, the winner is:

  🥢 KELLY D! 🍲

WooHoo! Congratulations to Diane and Kelly!!!

Thanks to everyone for all the great comments. Especially appreciate all the nice Happy Anniversary wishes. 🙂

More giveaways coming soon, so stay tuned!

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Erin is hosting the Roundup at The Water’s Edge. Twinkle toe on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Happy Reading!

 


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

nine cool things on a tuesday

1. How about a pop of color and whimsy? Love the charming crochet assemblages created by Finnish textile artist and teacher Tuija Heikkinen.

A far cry from the kitschy crocheted doilies of yore, Tuija’s designs and illustrations consist of separate crocheted elements arranged in fun, pretty, cheerful ways. Nice to see how she’s reimagined the craft!

See more at her Instagram, where you can also check out her sewing and embroidery projects.

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2. Coming Soon! Look out for Margo Sorenson’s YA/crossover adult novel Secrets in Translation, to be released October 19, 2018 by Fitzroy Books.

In this celebration of Italian life and culture, seventeen-year-old Alessandra returns for the summer to Italy, where she grew up. Pressured by her parents into babysitting a rebellious twelve year old—ruining holiday plans with newfound American friends—Alessandra resigns herself to a tedious summer in Positano. Her babysitting gig, however, turns out to be anything but boring! Not only does Alessandra fall for the handsome son of the Bertolucci family, renowned for their limoncello production, but when a body mysteriously turns up on the beach, the influence of organized crime in Positano becomes frighteningly real. As Alessandra is drawn further into an elaborate conspiracy, she must risk everything to protect herself, her family, and those she loves, and in the process finds herself—and her Italian heart.

I read this one over summer break and loved it! It was the perfect escape from all the madness. I’m still sighing over Margo’s beautiful descriptions of Positano and enjoyed meeting the interesting and intriguing characters in her story. Happy to report that Margo will be doing a guest post here at Alphabet Soup during pub week. Limoncello, anyone? 🙂

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Continue reading

Macbeth, Adverbs, and an Extra Meatball: Edwin Romond’s “Dream Teaching”

“Teach them the quiet words of kindness, to live beyond themselves. Urge them toward excellence, drive them toward gentleness, pull them deep into yourself, pull them upward toward manhood, but softly like an angel arranging clouds. Let your spirit move through them softly.” ~ Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides)

Another September, another school year. A time of new school supplies and textbooks, new teachers and classes, making new friends. 🙂

Are you familiar with Edwin Romond’s Dream Teaching (Grayson Books, 2004)?  This collection is truly a gem; the 34 funny, insightful, and poignant poems (written from the POVs of both student and teacher), were inspired by his 32 years as a public school English teacher in Wisconsin and New Jersey.

I’m happy to share the title poem from the book today — it brought back fond memories of my own English classes, particularly the years I taught high school English in London. You don’t have to be an educator or current student to enjoy Romond’s poems — we’re all lifelong learners, right?

Now, at last, we know what English teachers really dream about. 🙂

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DREAM TEACHING
by Edwin Romond

I am first in line for coffee
and the copier is not broken yet.
This is how dreams begin in teaching high school.

First period the boy who usually carves skulls
into his desk raises his hand instead
to ask about Macbeth and, for the first time,
I see his eyes are blue as melting ice.
Then, those girls in the back
stop passing notes and start taking them
and I want to marvel at tiny miracles
but still another hand goes up
and Butch the drag racer says he found the meaning
in that Act III soliloquy. Then more hands join the air
that is now rich with wondering and they moan
at the bell that ends our class and I ask myself,
“How could I have thought of calling in sick today?”

I open my eyes for the next class and no one’s late,
not even Ernie who owns his own time zone
and they’ve all done their homework
that they wave in the air
because everyone wants to go to the board
to underline nouns and each time I turn around
they’re looking at me as if I know something
they want and, steady as sunrise, they do everything right.

At lunch the grouchy food lady discovers smiling
and sneaks me an extra meatball. In the teachers’ room
we eat like family and for twenty-two minutes
not one of us bitches about anything.
Then the afternoon continues the happiness of hands
wiggling with answers and I feel such a spark
when spike-haired Cindy in the satanic tee shirt
picks the right pronoun and glows like a saint.

And me, I’m up and down the room now, cheering,
cajoling, heating them up like a revival crowd.
I’m living only in exclamatory sentences. They want it all
and I’m thinking, “What drug are we on here?”
Just as Crusher Granorski screams, “Predicate nominatives
are awesome!” the principal walks in
with my check and I say, “That’s okay,
you can keep it.” When the bell sounds
they stand, raise lighted matches
and chant, “Adverbs! Adverbs!”
I drive home petting my plan book.

At night I check the weather without wishing for a blizzard,
then sleep in the sweet maze of dreams
where I see every student from 32 years of school days:
boys and girls, sons and daughters who’re almost mine,
thousands of them stretching like dominoes into the night
and I call the roll and they sing, “We’re all here, Mr. Romond!”
When I pick up my chalk they open their books,
look up and, with eager eyes, ask me to teach them.

~ from Dream Teaching: Poems by Edwin Romond (Grayson Books, 2004)

“The Teacher’s Coming!” by Emanuel Spitzer (1887)

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Nice bit of serendipity:  About a year ago I featured a donut poem by Seattle-based poet Martha Silano. Just so happens Mr. Romond was Martha’s ninth grade English teacher. She wrote a lovely post about it at her blog Blue Positive. It wasn’t until she took his class that she became aware of “all the possibilities of a life devoted to literature.” Four years ago, they read their poems together at the Barrons Art Center in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

Mr. Romond has also written a wonderful donut poem, which I’ll share here soon. Poets and donuts, a nice way to come full circle, isn’t it? There’s something deliciously inspiring about that. 🙂

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Edwin Romond is a poet, playwright, and composer. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals, college text books and anthologies, and has twice been featured on National Public Radio.

He has written eight books of poetry, two musical plays, and was a public school teacher for 32 years in Wisconsin and New Jersey. Romond now works part-time in the poetry program of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and is also on staff at the Ruggiero Funeral Home, Pen Argyl, PA. His most recent poetry collection is Alone with Love Songs (Grayson Books, 2011).

A native of Woodbridge, NJ,  he lives in Wind Gap, PA with his wife, Mary, and their son, Liam.

More at his official website.

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The lovely Carol Varsalona is hosting the Roundup at Beyond Literacy Link. She’s featuring a sneak peek of her upcoming summer gallery of artistic expressions. Click over to check it out along with the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week.

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HAPPY SCHOOL YEAR, ALL!

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~ William Arthur Ward


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

summer magic and a blog break

“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days — three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.” ~ John Keats

“Wonderland” by Christian Schloe

 

It’s Summer!

Hello, fragrant, fruitful mornings with sunlight streaming through the windows, long lazy days luring us to dreaminess.

 

“Wind, Clouds, and Tea”

 

Awake, abloom, aloft — we eschew the tedium of routine, courting freedom, relaxation, play. William Carlos Williams once said, “In summer, the song sings itself.”

SUMMER SONG
by William Carlos Williams

Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning, —
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer’s smile, —
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
sky-blue
where would they carry me?

“Secret Entrance”

 

There is something so carefree and magical about summer — time of campfires and fireflies, travel and adventure, wonder and romance.

“Fly Away”

 

We need venture no further than the pages of a good book to discover our heart’s delight. Cicero said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

THE HOUSE WAS QUIET AND THE WORLD WAS CALM
by Wallace Stevens

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

 

In the reverie of a fine summer night, the line between reality and imagination blurs. The sky opens wide with possibility, showing off its stars. Novelist Peter S. Beagle said, “Anything can happen in a world that holds such beauty.”

“The Wishing Star”

 

SUMMER STARS
by Carl Sandburg

Bend low again, night of summer stars.
So near you are, sky of summer stars,
So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars,
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl,
So near you are, summer stars,
So near, strumming, strumming,
So lazy and hum-strumming.

“Night Makers”

 

As we sign off for our summer blog break, we wish you the calm and space to dream, long arms to reach for the stars, and big bowlfuls of inspiration and whimsy.

“Moondrops”

 

🌟 HAVE A TERRIFIC SUMMER AND SHINE YOUR LIGHT!! 🌓

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“Midnight Sky”

 

“All in all, it was a never to be forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”

—L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

 

“Set Your Heart Free”

 

♥️ The digital illustrations in this post were created by Austrian surrealist artist Christian Schloe. See more of his work here.

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The lovely and talented Michelle Kogan is hosting the Roundup. Drift over in your hot air balloon and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. See you in late August/early September!


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

“relax” with ellen bass

We try so hard. Really we do. But Murphy’s Law usually prevails.

RELAX
by Ellen Bass

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat —
the one you never really liked — will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up — drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice — one white, one black — scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

~ from Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)

by Liu Jiyou (1918-1983)

 

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How to reach for that strawberry, and keep the tiger of dread and misfortune at bay?

As Gilda Radner used to say, “There’s always something.” We fret, worry, stress — and what we dreaded so much doesn’t come to pass — something else happens instead. Something we didn’t anticipate, couldn’t possibly prepare for, something totally out of our control. You know, the inevitable, the unavoidable. We are misfortune’s fool.

The Buddhist story Bass cites offers some interesting food for thought. Does the tiger who chased the woman off the cliff represent the past, while the tiger lurking below, the future? Do the black and white mice (yin/yang?) symbolize time? Caught in the middle, knowing she’s going to die, the woman ceases to dwell on the past or worry about her fate. She simply seizes the only moment she has, the present — and it’s sweeter beyond belief.

 

via All the Beautiful Things

 

Learning to relax, living in the moment, and trying to be a lot more ZEN about life in general is an ongoing challenge for most of us. What a good reminder to embrace the gifts that are before us and express gratitude, especially when things are difficult.

And things in this country ARE difficult. What place does poetry have in enabling us to cope?

In a 2014 NYT Artsbeat interview, Bass said:

Poetry is always grappling with the question: how do we go on? And one way is to find beauty — and humor — in the humblest, most unexpected places. And to praise this gorgeous, tender, terrifying life that is ours for just a second or two.

We’re all dangling from that vine. The strawberries are there for the taking.

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Philadelphia-born Ellen Bass co-edited (with Florence Howe) the first major anthology of women’s poetry: No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (1973). Her recent collections include The Human Line (2007), Like a Beggar (2014), and Mules of Love (2002), a Lambda Literary Award-winner. An advocate for women survivors of child sexual abuse, Bass dedicated years of service to the cause and became a pioneer in the field of supporting the healing process through words, starting with the book (coedited with Louise Thornton) I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (1983). This was followed by The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (1988), coauthored with Laura Davis, and translated into twelve languages. Ellen is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and currently teaches in the low residency MFA program at Pacific University. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA, where she has taught writing and poetry workshops since 1974.

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The shockingly clever but not so shockingly talented and beautiful Karen Edmisten is hosting the Roundup this week. Be sure to sashay on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere. Have a relaxing weekend! 🙂


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.