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

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