Thursday, May 1, 2014

Garlic, camaraderie, and loneliness.

Poet Mark Mitchell plays with kitchen tools and words in the following four poems, moving from a lighthearted look at the awkward garlic press to an a quiet investigation of how cooking keeps loneliness at bay.

My favorite lines here are those of the first stanza of "After the Guests." The image of abandoned carrot sticks and celery troughs like skeletal aircraft in the quagmire of leftover dip is fresh and amusing. Thanks for sharing your work, Mark.

"Garlic press and garlic." Lee Kindness, 2005.
Creative Commons License. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Cleaning a Garlic Press

A blind and legless insect
Glints dull gray         
Under the flow of water.
A green toothbrush
Breaks its bristles
Against heavy mesh
Pushing bits
Of pulp into the sink.

This small monster
Dries and drains against
My wine glass.
I sniff my fingers:
They stink
Of a good meal
And soap.

 Mark J. Mitchell

Artist unknown; 14th century. Public Domain.
Via Wikimedia Commons.


Today is composed of odors:
Garlic is roasting while coffee brews,
Green peppers and sharp red onions
Stinging tears to his eyes.
Piece by piece, with oregano,
With oil, tomatoes, it will
Become a sauce (except the coffee,
That’s the cook’s humble reward,
The thing he tastes today),
Tomorrow it will swell to a meal.
Today smells just fine.

Mark J. Mitchell

After the Guests

Crudities left like airplanes
Crashed in dip canyons.

Scattered squads of bottles
Guard the crumpled plates.

Music comes to an abrupt stop.

There are coasters, chips
And peanut shells in unlikely places.

The host and birthday girl
Eye the full sink, thinking,

 “It was a marvelous party.”

 Mark J. Mitchell
"After the Guests" first appeared in Graze.

Home Alone

Cooking for one
Has a purity. Like science
Tested in an afterhours lab:
If the experiment works
There’s time to tell the world;
If it fails,
No one needs to know.

Cooking for one
Is an exercise in logistics,
Keeping the dishes
To a minimum,
Re-using each spoon and pan.

Cooking for one
Is the practice of optimism,
A ritual meant to chase
Loneliness away.
It’s a game we play
While waiting
For someone to come home.

Mark J. Mitchell

Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock, and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last 35 years, as well as in the anthologies Good Poems, American Places; Hunger Enough; and Line Drives. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the film maker Joan Juster. Currently he's seeking gainful employment since poets are born and not paid.

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