Poetry Month

I work in schools, and for some reason April is poetry month. I'm glad schools don't wait for February to teach African-American history or March to teach about women in history, but many of the English classes I know save poetry for April.

I have many, many favorite poems, but there is one that has a long history with me. I found it in the 70's in a free paper called The Berkeley Monthly. I loved this poem so much that I asked a friend who did calligraphy (he also made his own chain-mail from wire, could quote endless Monty Python bits, and became a firefighter) to write it out for me on parchment. It hung in my kitchen for years, and then in preparing for one cross-country move or another I took it off the matting, glass, and clips and rolled it up.

I still have it, though the paper is cracking in parts. Some might say that it's treacley, but I like that sometimes. I think it says less about what my life was like in the 70's, but more about one slice of the life I wanted to create for myself. I had some Julia Child on my shelf, but its pages weren't as worn as Laurel's Kitchen or Diet for a Small Planet. At the same time, I kept a little card in my purse that held the complete text of the ERA. It was a confusing time, maybe more so because I was so young and trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.

Biscuits Made-From-Scratch

I had forgotten how good it feels
To cook slowly and with patience,
To chop things fine and sauté, to bake and boil
To mix with care, to keep the oven warm all day
Through breakfast, lunch and dinner,
To clear and clean continually
Each meal's debris, to wipe
The tables and mop the floors
To fold the laundry, to set
The accounts in order
And color with the kids
To act as Solomon for all disputes
And nurse to every hurt,
To take the time to make things
More than tidy,
With flowers arranged just so.

The separate lives come and go
In the house, and I am
That day's center, the base
Each one touches.

I had forgotton nurturing
And in this slow, summer rain,
The soft gray sky, found again
What pleasure there is to start
The day with biscuits made-from-scratch
And end it with a bedtime story,
To narrow my world view
To those things I can touch
Only with my hands.

—Dian Hanley


Ken Sternberg said...

I like that poem a lot, Deb. Thanks for sharing it.

SF Mom of One said...

Now, in the 21st century, we know there is no contradition between equal rights and nurturing one's family.

Thanks for letting me know that it's poetry month!

Deb St-Claire said...

I've received some good feedback on the poem. I've been trying to scout down another food-ish poem that I heard at a conference a few years ago. I've found the book that it is in and ordered a used copy on Amazon.

SF Mom: If only, huh? The stories we could tell!

Deb St-Claire said...

FYI: Friday, April 28th is Poem in Your Pocket Day. You're supposed to have a poem ready to share with anyone and everyone throughout the day. Imagine, reciting in the check-out line? Having a copy typed up and handing to the bank teller. On second thought, no...that might get you into trouble. You could hand one to a toll taker on a bridge, though.

vanessa said...

Thanks for sharing that poem. It's wonderful to see the familiar portrayed so beautifully and eloquently. gives some creedence to this cooking obsession :)

i can't think of any food poems off the top of my head, but i have certainly come across many a lyric having to do with love and food. Jill Scott's "Bedda at Home" comes to mind...

Deb St-Claire said...

Vanessa, Thanks! I'll have to look up Jill Scott. I don't know her work, but the title is intriguing.