At times it seems ridiculously obvious to talk about how food is part of our lives; it's obvious we can't live without it. Yet, we can sometimes still feel a flash of shock at a reminder of how important food is in our lives, so somehow this fact does slip from our consciousness. Yes, the basic energy units and nutritional value of food are intrinsic to the continuation of our lives. Just as important to our culture and our humanity are the small rituals, each bite a celebration of life. Several pieces in this issue, particularly Barry Basden's flash fiction, "Stalingrad, Summer of '42," underscore this: food not only keeps us alive but also continues to keep us human.
This issue contains work from the following writers:
Artworks are attributed individually. Enjoy!
~ Heidi Kenyon, Editor
Vashon Island, Washington
August 27, 2009
When I give the kitchen table
a good rough-up with fine
sandpaper, it stands in a circle
of dust like a horse being curried,
grain gleaming as the white cloth
makes an arc from withers
to croup. This is the stage
on which our dramas are played—
lessons with the knife and fork,
homework, late night lust.
The summer I turned fourteen,
a shy boy skimmed an index card
across the oak plain of a library table.
Amo, amas, amat, amamus
it read, conjugating his love
in a language I wouldn’t understand
for years. And even now
the schuss of paper over wood
sounds like a schoolboy’s incantation—
love’s gestures passed like food
across the table, its marks
too deeply etched to be removed.
This poem appeared in Connecticut Review.
He’d snuffle me like a puppy when I got home,
lick the sugar from my arms and neck
till I showered the bakery off with jasmine foam.
In our refuge of mattress and crumbling plaster, the sun
played a silent aria over the lath, and he’d picnic
on my sweet muscat, I on his Damson plum.
Afterward, the slow goodbye:
his hand atop the table of my hip, slipping
as his breathing eased, uncoupling from mine.
His sex, still reddened, hung
heavy-satisfied, while I lay widening, widening
as wine stains lace when the revelry’s done.
This poem appeared in Gloom Cupboard.
Leslie McGrath’s poems have appeared in Agni online, Alimentum, Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, Nimrod, Poetry Ireland, and elsewhere. Winner of the 2004 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, she is the managing editor of Drunken Boat: online journal of the arts. Her first collection of poetry, Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage, is due from Main Street Rag in October 2009.
care to join me for a pile of food
every once in a while
my normal grub
of chicken fried steak
and baked potato
for some of the fancy fodder
at those restaurants
with cloth tablecloths
and no chance at all
unless you bring it
and i’ve noticed
over the years a trend
toward piling your
on top of another,
on top of potatoes
or pasta of some denomination
and under several asparagus
or string beans
i don’t understand
how we got to this state
of affairs -
the child’s complaint
that the peas
are touching the macaroni
and he can’t possibly eat anything
because it’s touching,
on thing contaminated by the other,
to this current haute cuisine
of presenting to their diners
a pile of food in the middle of a
very large plate, most ot the plate
untouched by the food
which is piled in the middle
this is like chopsticks,
two sticks between which
you are supposed to clamp
pieces of food that includes rice
and meat or vegetables too large
to eat in one bite
the biggest question
why would we would want eat this way
but why anyone
would ever think of inventing
this method in the first place - end
product of a drinking game
is my guess
the same s true of this food-piling
movement among top chefs
of the world
i don’t get it
and i don’t like it
and that’s why i just stick
to my chicken fried steak and
from the other
This poem appeared in Here and Now.
Allen Itz has one book out, Seven Beats a Second, and three other recently completed manuscrips he's shopping around. He publishes a weekly poetry blog, "Here and Now," that includes his work and that of other poets. His website is at www.7beats.com.
Farm Style Pink Lemonade
Granulated white sugar—one cup.
Freshly squeezed lemons—ten. Enough
Water to fill two quarts up.
Add ice, lemon peel, mint
Sprigs, stir well. A hint
Of beet will tint
This pale drink
This poem appeared in The Quarterly Journal of Food and Car Poems.
Juleigh Howard-Hobson's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Lyric, qarrtsiluni, Soundzine, The Raintown Review, 14 by 14, The Chimaera, Mobius, Umbrella Journal, and many other places. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where some of the best food in the world can be found.
Simple Tastes: A Quintet
awake? if so, joy
cinnamon toast and coffee
morning in bed
hot tomato chutney
on sourdough grilled cheese
lunch on the porch
there's something to be said
for buttered cracker and tea
late afternoon pick-me-up
at the slap of a screen door
Brunswick stew simmering
smoky whisky in Waterford
bagpipes now sounding good
sharp night wind
Neal Whitman, who lives in Pacific Grove, California, reads and writes poetry every day—it is not just a vitamin pill, but part of a healthy diet. Over 50 poems have been published in 27 journals... but who's counting calories?
Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup for Lunch by Patianne Stevenson
Because I just got paid
and I spent the day alone,
a day in which I
dyed my hair,
made the turkey broth, pies,
cranberry sauce and roasted garlic
for the Thanksgiving dinner
my sister will attend at my home
tomorrow, cleaned the mildew from the grout,
and washed our summer bedspread
to put it away until next April,
a day with no conflict with anyone,
just me and the cat,
because I listened to beautiful music
because the colors of things are brighter
and more vivid now than before,
because I begin to love where I live
and the inside of my home
becomes quaint rather than drab,
because I feel warm and safe and hopeful,
today, Wednesday, the day before the last
Thursday in November
is my day of thanksgiving.
A poet and school bus driver in San Diego, Kimberly Sherman attended Humboldt State University (BA Anthropology) and the University of Pittsburgh (MA Linguistics). Her poems have appeared in the Journal of Formal Poetry, San Diego Poetry Annual, and Blue Collar Review.
Stalingrad, Summer of '42
When the bombing started they moved into the cellar and kept moving from house to house as the buildings collapsed above them. Finally the air raids stopped and Ksenia tried to get to the river but the Germans were already there, burning the boats. The river was too wide for bridges and it could not be crossed without a boat.
Coming back, she saw a dead horse in the rubble only a block away from their shelter and hurried to get Papa. After eating nothing but scorched wheat for days, they had a feast. Papa cut off a hind leg and Mama boiled the chunks of horsemeat in water from the flooded cellar next door. They had no tea and ate the meat with only more boiled water to drink. But it was wonderful.
They celebrated Ksenia's seventeenth birthday that night because it was only a week away and who knew what might happen by then. Little Mariya cried because she had no present for her big sister, but Ksenia hugged her and said her love was the best present of all.
The sisters shared a damp bare mattress on the cement floor next to a wall with a small window high up that opened onto the street. They huddled under their coats and whispered late into the night. Shadows from the fires outside flickered in the basement gloom. Next morning they wakened to the sound of troops moving above them. German voices came through the window. Mama's eyes went wide and she held her hand to her mouth for them to be silent.
They heard someone coming down the stairs. A German officer stepped through the door holding a pistol and looked at the family for a moment. They didn't move. Then he said in halting Russian, "Remain quiet. Stay off the streets. The SS are coming." He turned and went back up the stairs and they heard the soldiers go away.
Two weeks later the fighting was over in their sector. Smoke from the burning oil tanks covered the city and most buildings were in ruins. Dead bodies lay everywhere--civilians and many soldiers from both sides. The stench was terrible.
Loudspeaker trucks moved slowly through the rubble and directed all citizens to report to the German headquarters or be shot. There was no possibility of escape. Mama sliced the mold off the last of the horsemeat and they ate it raw. Then Ksenia and her family left the cellar and gathered with others in front of a grain elevator, where they registered at a table guarded by soldiers with dogs. Papa was immediately put to work collecting the dead.
After a few days Ksenia was trucked away to a camp with other young women where they were used as sex slaves by the German army. She never saw her family again and they became like a dream to her.
Some of Barry Basden's short pieces have been published online; some not. He edits Camroc Press Review.