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LOSS (and food) 

May 2000

Our poem of inspiration is by Irish poet Eavan Boland from her book, In A Time of Violence. Having recently heard Boland read "The Pomegranate," what struck me about it was her introduction. She said that she had wanted to write about how when her daughter reached about age 12, she realized that she had somehow "lost her." This everyday situation of her daughter growing up, was, for her, paired with the Ceres and Persephone myth that brings us the change of seasons, and she uses that and one of its central images - the pomegranate... an intriguing mixture.

Since we have already tried our hand at myth poems, let us try putting together these other two odd elements. Write about "loss" but use as your unifying image an item of food. A rather bizarre and specific starting place - but give it a chance.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


My husband tells me when he was a boy
the family would gather every Sunday
for a dinner that went on for hours.
The custom continued
and every holiday
my mother-in-law would come
laden with dishes that sounded like opera.

There were overtures of prosciutto,
mozzarella in carrozza and
acciughe di olio;
arias of tortellini in brodo, pesto genovese,
scallopine alla marsala, and linguini primavera;
grand finales of cannoli, panettone,
and torroncini.

I was awed and a little amused
by their obsession with
the secret in the sauce,
the brand of the olive oil,
the age of the parmesan,
the source of the wine, and
whether the pasta was al dente.

Then one day, my mother-in-law
lay dying, her only food
a cold, colorless liquid
dripping slowly through a tube in her veins.
She whispered
I'm sorry I can't offer you anything to eat
and I finally understood.

S he had been blessing her family for years
with the fruits of their ancestors;
each meal was a sacrament,
a bountiful benediction:
Take this and eat it.
Remember me and
remember where you came from.

Barbara Whitehill


This morning a man on the platform raps the news
while we wait for the 174 to Boston.
Men arrive carrying duffels, and a woman wearing
white gloves reads the Holy Bible.

In 1981 my daughter and I visit Santa in his residence
at the Willowbrook Mall.
Afterwards in that cotton-candy-giant-lollipop
transfigured center court, I put her on a train

that quickly disappears around a corner and into
a papier-mâché mountain.
Why do I begin to sob? Look,
here she is, coming back to me, and she's smiling,

and she has a story to tell me about the mountain
she's been through. She asks to go again.
She asks to go again, and how can I refuse her, how
can I refuse?

All aboard, the conductor cries in old-fashioned
and quaint surmise. And then she's through the silver doors
and gone, and I begin to think about her settling beside
a window to unpack the fruit I cut and wrapped,

her doze over a magazine and the gaze she breaks
over the chain fences and the old cars,
the brittle sea.  And what she will hum to the hymnal chuck
of the wheels.  And long lines stretched across backyards

like the strings of a harp, and birds rising and falling
to them in a tangling skein of coming and going.
And how the train is a wire, and what a wire sings
when it's plucked hard.

Mary DeBow


she is young.
She thinks
that strawberries
are God's best creation -
oozing scarlet juice
that collects the whisker
seeds when the knife
But sometimes sugar's
needed to sweeten
those not quite ripe.

mangoes are more to my
more mature palette --
mellow, yellow
without the stain,
one giant
of a seed

I use no knife.
I peel the skin
with my teeth
before I

Susan Sapnar

Bon Appetite

I know a woman who is always hungry.
Skinny as a strand of angel hair pasta,
her eyes savor, garnish and consume.
Seeing almost as delectable to her as eating.
It's a gift really...
I've dined with her, breakfasted and lunched,
and she eats all the bad stuff
yet not a pound, not an inch.
Almost satiated by the thought, she tells me
where she ate last night, what was for breakfast-
I swear, she can almost make you hungry just listening.

There was a time when I tried to keep up with her,
but I got full too fast. Then I got busy with her gusto
and lost my own hunger.
We just don't have the same appetite.
Oh, I've learned to enjoy the treats with
something akin to that relishing
but small things- not too sweet.

Cheryl Soback


Seen in this mirror vision,
she was summer savory.
Grown once to attract bees
rather than the dragonflies.
An affinity for greens,
A substitute for thyme.

Inside the house, skin of Apollo's moon,
some sundried, but beneath that hand
ripe peach, demi glace, French techniques
filling the room with aroma, she said
If reasons were as plentiful as blackberries
we could fill our plates and leave the table,
our fingers and lips stained with satisfaction.

We thought the garden would provide all.

Kenneth Ronkowitz


those wonderful southern summers
walking hand in hand with grandpa
through his peach orchard
being lifted high upon his shoulders
to reach for the ripest peach
watching his calloused hands
remove the peel in one long unbroken
strip with the same pen knife
he used to cut off a piece of chewing tobacco
that he always seemed to carry
to remove a dozen splinters
from various parts of my anatomy
the same knife
his grandpa used at shiloh during the civil
war to cut 'hard tack'
the same knife i took from my
pocket last summer at a roadside fruit stand in georgia
to peel the skin from a peach
for my grandson in one long continuance strip
like the interstate that now divided
what was once grandpa's orchard
how ironic on one side a memorial garden
where he now rests
and the stand of peach trees
on the other
between the unbroken strip of concrete

Ray Cutshaw


My first born was a girl, could I prepare
me for her and her for life? I bought
a book of symbols. When we were alone
I’d hold her under baby almond trees
knowing they were first to bloom. I’d dare
to make a wish beneath their shade. I thought,
"I’ll tell her nature's secrets, making known
that almonds can bring sweetness on the breeze."

I should have prayed there'd be no tardy ice
to play much havoc with those early blooms -
so delicate an icon formed to pass
to her beneath their shade. Oh, the price
she paid ! We should have stayed in warmer rooms
to build up strength within my firstborn lass.

The delicate and fragile sweetness caught
from the almond tree has been most dearly bought.

Catherine LeGault