Poetry Friday: “The Embrace”

piano-by-Ralf-Nolte-on-flickrPoetry can recall us to the sensuousness of ordinary experience. Elizabeth Smither does this in “The Embrace” through the pointed choice of particular details. We are invited into a room in which almost nothing is happening, yet the room fills with sumptuously imaged life: two pianos which seem to be playing (though literally they’re not); two people leaning joyously into each other; a meal appearing in all its lusciously itemized dishes. All of this takes place in only two sentences—for it’s in the dashes that Smither makes the poem work. Each pair of dashes holds within it an instant of event, while holding still the surrounding objects. What these dashes manage to do, I’d say, is hold aloft the simultaneity of music and meal and human embrace. The poem leaves me feeling richer, yet also wondering what rich details I’m missing in each moment of my own experience.

-Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]

Eat the Delicious Earth

2440065352_c094834b71_zA year ago, I started cooking and learning how to prepare and love food in new ways. How to spend time with it, think about how it comes apart and together, how it draws lines back to heritage and times when I loved my insides, when love had all kinds of ungraspable meanings.

I’m lucky to have a family that taught me that food was pleasure, that if you ate for nutrition only, one day you’d return your carotids to the good Lord, who’d spread them with his mighty hands, inspect their immaculate insides, and ask what on that delicious earth you’d done with your life.

Paella. Extra saffron for the vermilion color that makes me think of mercuric sulfide. Pretend poison. The coral threads were a gift, and I have to use it up before it’s useless, conserved and tasteless.

Chorizo, the fat and fiber melding with the lush gore of the battle scenes on Game of Thrones as I eat late at night, until I have to throw the rest away. Green and red bell peppers; when I had a regular salary, I’d chop off the top and throw it away; now that I freelance, I cut carefully around the stem. [Read more…]

The Vegan at Our Chicken Slaughter

16658905467_1f9132c3f0_zA few years ago, we invited the newest neighbor in our rural intentional Christian community to help us slaughter the chickens we had raised for meat.

Our neighbor told us about his guest up the hill; he was visiting from the city and he was a strict ethical vegan. Our neighbor warned his vegan friend, whom I will call Tim, what would be happening down the hill that afternoon. So early that morning, Tim visited the doomed fowl and blessed them before death.

I appreciated such a blessing on our chickens. Blessings over animals before slaughter have been part of animal killing in many traditional societies. Some Native American tribes would ask for forgiveness for taking the life of the animal and then offer thanks for the provision of its life for sustenance.

When he was in West Africa serving in the Peace Corps, my husband participated in the killing of an animal during a festival. In keeping with Beninese tradition, he offered the animal a sip of water before he took its life, as a sign of respect. [Read more…]

After a Thanksgiving Feast

image-10I carry my failure with me. My embarrassment. My shame. It grows.

It sets me apart from men in my life, the hard man with the violin, the thin man with the flask. See them in the photo. They have enough, more than enough. If one day they leave a little, the next they put less on their plate.

My life? Apparently, the sustaining belief is this: never enough. Never enough sweetness. Never enough love. Never enough, so I surround myself with more. More than I’ll ever consume. Not enough hours in life to read as many pages as are packed onto floor-to-ceiling shelves. And if there were, what then? [Read more…]

Rules for Celebrating: An Observation from the Way of Saint James, Part 1

cornMy son graduated from college this past June. It took him seven years, due to a hiatus, a transfer, and several changes of major, and there were times I thought I’d never see the day. So when the moment finally arrived, it was time to celebrate.

Now, I grew up in the sixties in New York in an Italian American family, and for us celebrating always meant one thing: inviting family and friends and cooking a meal for them. These meals invariably came in two varieties—formal dinner or cookout—and the circumstances dictated the choice.

The following obliged a formal dinner: all religious holidays; birthdays and other events that took place after Labor Day and before Memorial Day; functions to which clergy, wealthy people, politicians, lawyers, doctors, dentists, business associates, current clients, potential clients, current Anglo in-laws, or any future in-laws were to be invited.

Cookouts were never required but were permissible for celebrations that did not demand a formal dinner and took place from Memorial through Labor Day.

Whether the verdict was formal dinner or cookout, there were rules and procedures to follow, and the women in my family taught me them when I was young. These rules and procedures were immutable. They could not be broken or bent. Never. Not once. [Read more…]


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