Friday, April 12, 2013

Poems about Food: Playlist for May 20, 2016


The Invention of Cuisine

By Carol Muske-Dukes b. 1945

Imagine for a moment

the still life of our meals,

meat followed by yellow cheese,

grapes pale against the blue armor of fish.  

Imagine a thin woman

before bread was invented,

playing a harp of wheat in the field.  

There is a stone, and behind her

the bones of the last killed,

the black bird on her shoulder

that a century later

will fly with trained and murderous intent.  

They are not very hungry

because cuisine has not yet been invented.  

Nor has falconry,

nor the science of imagination.  

All they have is the pure impulse to eat,  

which is not enough to keep them alive  

and this little moment

before the woman redeems

the sprouted seeds at her feet

and gathers the olives falling from the trees  
for her recipes.  

Imagine. Out in the fields

this very moment

they are rolling the apples to press,

the lamb turns in a regular aura of smoke.  

See, the woman looks once behind her  

before picking up the stone,

looks back once at the beasts,

the trees,  

that sky

above the white stream

where small creatures live and die  

looking upon each other

as food.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: La creation du Monde by Darius Milhaud


By Alfred Corn b. 1943 

Loaf after loaf, in several sizes,

and never does it not look fresh,

as though its insides weren’t moist

or warm crust not the kind that spices

a room with the plump aroma of toast.  

Found on the table; among shadows

next to the kitchen phone; dispatched

FedEx (without return address, though).

Someone, possibly more than one

person, loves me. Well then, who?  

Amazing that bread should be so weightless,

down-light when handled, as a me

dying to taste it takes a slice.

Which lasts just long enough to reach

my mouth, but then, at the first bite,  

Nothing! Nothing but air, thin air ....   

Oh. One more loaf of wonderbread,

only a pun for bread, seductive

visually, but you could starve.

Get rid of it, throw it in the river— 

Beyond which, grain fields. Future food for the just

and the unjust, those who love, and do not love.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Allegro) by W.A. Mozart

Everything Good between Men and Women

By C. D. Wright b. 1949

has been written in mud and butter

and barbecue sauce. The walls and

the floors used to be gorgeous.

The socks off-white and a near match.

The quince with fire blight

but we get two pints of jelly

in the end. Long walks strengthen

the back. You with a fever blister

and myself with a sty. Eyes

have we and we are forever prey

to each other’s teeth. The torrents

go over us. Thunder has not harmed

anyone we know. The river coursing

through us is dirty and deep. The left

hand protects the rhythm. Watch

your head. No fires should be

unattended. Especially when wind. Each

receives a free swiss army knife.

The first few tongues are clearly

preparatory. The impression

made by yours I carry to my grave. It is

just so sad so creepy so beautiful.

Bless it. We have so little time

to learn, so much... The river

courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.

Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Twilight, from Symphonic Dances by Sergei Rachmaninov

The Battle of the Bulge

By Robert W. Service 1874–1958

This year an ocean trip I took, and as I am a Scot

And like to get my money’s worth I never missed a meal.

In spite of Neptune’s nastiness I ate an awful lot,

Yet felt as fit as if we sailed upon an even keel.

But now that I am home again I’m stricken with disgust;

How many pounds of fat I’ve gained I’d rather not divulge:

Well, anyway, I mean to take this tummy down or bust,

So here I’m suet-strafing in the

                                                      Battle of the Bulge. 

No more will sausage, bacon, eggs provide my breakfast fare;

On lobster I will never lunch, with mounds of mayonnaise.

At tea I’ll Spartanly eschew the chocolate éclair;

Roast duckling and pêche melba shall not consummate my days.

No more nocturnal ice-box raids, midnight spaghetti feeds;

On slabs of pâté de foie gras I vow I won’t indulge:

Let bran and cottage cheese suffice my gastronomic needs,

And lettuce be my ally in the

                                                      Battle of the Bulge.  

To hell with you, ignoble paunch, abhorrent in my sight!

I gaze at your rotundity, and savage is my frown.

I’ll rub you and I’ll scrub you and I’ll drub you day and night,

But by the gods of symmetry I swear I’ll get you down.

Your smooth and smug convexity, by heck! I will subdue,

And when you tucker in again with joy will I refulge;

No longer of my toes will you obstruct my downward view ...

With might and main I’ll fight to gain the

                                                      Battle of the Bulge.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Battle of Britain by William Walton



By William Matthews 1942–1997 

How easily happiness begins by  

dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter  

slithers and swirls across the floor  

of the sauté pan, especially if its  

errant path crosses a tiny slick

of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.  

This could mean soup or risotto  

or chutney (from the Sanskrit

chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions  

go limp and then nacreous

and then what cookbooks call clear,  

though if they were eyes you could see  

clearly the cataracts in them.

It’s true it can make you weep

to peel them, to unfurl and to tease  

from the taut ball first the brittle,  

caramel-colored and decrepit

papery outside layer, the least  

recent the reticent onion

wrapped around its growing body,  

for there’s nothing to an onion

but skin, and it’s true you can go on  

weeping as you go on in, through  

the moist middle skins, the sweetest  

and thickest, and you can go on  

in to the core, to the bud-like,  

acrid, fibrous skins densely  

clustered there, stalky and in-

complete, and these are the most  

pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare  

and rage and murmury animal  

comfort that infant humans secrete.  

This is the best domestic perfume.  

You sit down to eat with a rumor

of onions still on your twice-washed  

hands and lift to your mouth a hint 

of a story about loam and usual  

endurance. It’s there when you clean up  

and rinse the wine glasses and make  

a joke, and you leave the minutest  

whiff of it on the light switch,

later, when you climb the stairs.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Cry Me A River, performed by Julie London

Poems about Night: Playlist for April 5, 2013

Your Night Is of Lilac

By Mahmoud Darwish 1942–2008

Translated By Fady Joudah


The night sits wherever you are. Your night

is of lilac. Every now and then a gesture escapes

from the beam of your dimples, breaks the wineglass

and lights up the starlight. And your night is your shadow—

a fairy-tale piece of land to make our dreams

equal. I am not a traveler or a dweller

in your lilac night, I am he who was one day

me. Whenever night grew in you I guessed

the heart’s rank between two grades: neither

the self accepts, nor the soul accepts. But in our bodies

a heaven and an earth embrace. And all of you

is your night ... radiant night like planet ink. Night

is the covenant of night, crawling in my body

anesthetized like a fox’s sleepiness. Night diffusing a mystery

that illuminates my language, whenever it is clearer

I become more fearful of a tomorrow in the fist. Night

staring at itself safe and assured in its

endlessness, nothing celebrates it except its mirror

and the ancient shepherd songs in a summer of emperors

who get sick on love. Night that flourished in its Jahili poetry

on the whims of Imru’ el-Qyss and others,

and widened for the dreamers the milk path to a hungry

moon in the remoteness of speech ...

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Incantations by Augusta Read Thomas

The Starry Night

By Anne Sexton 1928–1974

That does not keep me from having a terrible need of—shall I say the word—religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars. -Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother

The town does not exist

except where one black-haired tree slips

up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.

The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.  

Oh starry starry night! This is how

I want to die. 


It moves. They are all alive.

Even the moon bulges in its orange irons  

to push children, like a god, from its eye.

The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.  

Oh starry starry night! This is how  

I want to die: 


into that rushing beast of the night,  

sucked up by that great dragon, to split  

from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Piano Quintet in F minor by Cesar Franck (Finale)

A Nocturnal Reverie

By Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea 1661–1720

In such a night, when every louder wind

Is to its distant cavern safe confined;

And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,

And lonely Philomel, still waking, sings;

Or from some tree, famed for the owl’s delight,

She, hollowing clear, directs the wand’rer right:

In such a night, when passing clouds give place,

Or thinly veil the heav’ns’ mysterious face;

When in some river, overhung with green,

The waving moon and the trembling leaves are seen;

When freshened grass now bears itself upright,

And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,

Whence springs the woodbind, and the bramble-rose,

And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;

Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,

Yet checkers still with red the dusky brakes

When scatter’d glow-worms, but in twilight fine,

Shew trivial beauties, watch their hour to shine;

Whilst Salisb’ry stands the test of every light,

In perfect charms, and perfect virtue bright:

When odors, which declined repelling day,

Through temp’rate air uninterrupted stray;

When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,

And falling waters we distinctly hear;

When through the gloom more venerable shows

Some ancient fabric, awful in repose,

While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,

And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale:

When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,

Comes slowly grazing through th’ adjoining meads,

Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,

Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear:

When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,

And unmolested kine rechew the cud;

When curlews cry beneath the village walls,

And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;

Their shortlived jubilee the creatures keep,

Which but endures, whilst tyrant man does sleep;

When a sedate content the spirit feels,

And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;

But silent musings urge the mind to seek

Something, too high for syllables to speak;

Till the free soul to a composedness charmed,

Finding the elements of rage disarmed,

O’er all below a solemn quiet grown,

Joys in th’ inferior world, and thinks it like her own:

In such a night let me abroad remain,

Till morning breaks, and all’s confused again;

Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,

Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.   

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Fantasia by William Byrd

Four Glimpses of Night

By Frank Marshall Davis 1905–1987



Like a woman hurrying to her lover

Night comes to the room of the world

And lies, yielding and content

Against the cool round face

Of the moon.



Night is a curious child, wandering

Between earth and sky, creeping

In windows and doors, daubing

The entire neighborhood

With purple paint.


Is an apologetic mother

Cloth in hand

Following after.




From door to door

Night sells

Black bags of peppermint stars

Heaping cones of vanilla moon


His wares are gone

Then shuffles homeward

Jingling the gray coins

Of daybreak.



Night’s brittle song, sliver-thin

Shatters into a billion fragments

Of quiet shadows

At the blaring jazz

Of a morning sun.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: (not available)


By Michael Hofmann

It's all right  

Unless you're either lonely or under attack.  

That strange effortful

Repositioning of yourself. Laundry, shopping,  

Hours, the telephone—unless misinformed—

Only ever ringing for you, if it ever does.  

The night—yours to decide,

Among drink, or books, or lying there.

On your back, or curled up.
An embarrassment of poverty.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne in A-flat by Gabriel Faure