Thursday, July 27, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Hello! Just a quick break from vacation to write and post a poem for Poetry Thursday. (I bow before the poetry altar of Liz Elayne and Lynn.) I’ve missed you all and even though I have Internet access, I decided not to blog. But I may need to take a day off from work to catch up on all of your blog posts! My heavens, what have I missed?

*I’ll be a bit slow to respond today, but I’ll try to get as many of your PT posts as I can.*

So today’s poem is about last night’s dinner. And I won’t go into it too much except to say I burned the sh*t out of my finger with hot oil. But the crab cakes were the best I’ve ever made. Does that qualify as suffering for my art? Needless to say, this poem is still uncooked (pun intended). Feedback welcome.

How to Make a Crab Cake

Start with your own body,
the small bones of the hands
moving toward the inlets of the fingertips.

Wanting it too much invites haste.
You must love what is raw
and uncared for.

Think of the crab cake as the ending,
as you till away at the meat, digging for
errant shells and jagged edges.

Always, it’s a matter of guesswork
but you hold it together
by the simplest of ingredients.

Here, the body learns to be generous,
to forgive the flaws inherited—
the warped spatula and uneven pan

yet you never quite know
when it happens,
the moment when the lumps

transcend egg and breadcrumbs,
the quiver of oil in a hot pan,
to become otherworldly:

a delicate morsel
with its crispy outer edge,
and its imperfect, unexpected beauty.


Marilyn said...

"to forgive the flaws inherited—" ... Ah, if only we could do that with all things, not just kitchen utensils. :) Lovely poem. Crab was in mine today, too, in a way. Thanks for the prompt. Hope you're enjoying your vacation.

Paul Decelles said...

I should not read these poems before I am going to be thinking of crab cakes all day. Love the images and how the sacred manifests itself in this simple dish.

jim said...


This is so fine already. The attention to the body, the play between the meat and the other slight ingredients (which make all the difference), is perfectly done. Beautiful, rich language, too.

I'm just not crazy about the last stanza (and I prefer ending with the unexpected "unworldly"), as you have already made the beauty and delicacy abundantly clear.

Anyway, cripes for cooking up a storm and writing up a storm in one evening!

jenclair said...

You've made my mouth water--anticipation, delay, and the "quiver of oil in a hot pan."

Left-handed Trees... said...

Oh, I cannot cook to save my life...and when I read your words, sometimes I wonder about writing poetry. (sigh) I loved the "small bones of the hands/moving toward the inlets of the fingertips". I also loved (as I always do) how you transform the daily life into something transcendent. Thanks for this one.

deirdre said...

It's 8:30 a.m. and I want crab cakes now! Oh, yum. Great poem, proof that even the simple, everyday can inspire. Hope your finger is better soon and that the rest of vacation is wonderful.

Star said...

I love the interaction of the hands with the ingredients. Great food poem (and I'm sure great crab cakes too!)

twitches said...

yet you never quite know
when it happens,

that sums up cooking, for sure. This is delicious.

LJCohen said...

Ahhhh. So good. I was in that kitchen with you. I could feel the sharp slice of crab shell on my thumb.

Wonderful poem.

Deb R said...

Crab cakes...Yum! That sounds sooooo good!

I like the poem just as it is.

I love the phrase "imperfect, unexpected beauty."

January said...

Thanks for the comments.

Jim and Deb, I'm not happy with the last two stanzas, so thanks for the suggestions. I'll take a look and try a few variations on the theme.

Verity said...

Beautiful poetry, and it made my mouth water.

Lynn said...

The first line is brilliant and unexpected. I love it, and I love:

"You must love what is raw
and uncared for."


paris parfait said...

Love the rich imagery of your poem, January! Hope you're having lots of R&R on your holiday!

pepektheassassin said...

JANuary! JanuARY! This is SO FINE just like it is! Using the body, the hands, the wanting... is sheer inspiration. No kidding.

Dani said...

Foodie love and poetry seem to go together well. Great job!

ecm said...

I love the first two stanzas and
"Think of the crab cake as the ending" and "Here the body learns to be generous" It's really just generally lovely. I like it's recipe-esque title.

chiefbiscuit said...

moving toward the inlets of the fingertips.
Beautiful description of cooking - some surprising images and novel (as in new) ideas. Quite detailed and meticulous and intimate - Love it!

Jennifer said...

I love it, I love crabcakes. I've never made them myself though. I like the inlet finger line - very cool

wendylou who? said...

Thing that spatter in the kitchen scare nemisis..lovingly named greasy tacos...because I'm seriously worried I may lose an eye...but when on the plate, nothing tstes better.Loved the poem and the prompt

Nic Bridges said...

Amazing poem - captures that sacred something about cooking and food. I love it!!

la vie en rose said...

uncooked????? i don't think so... wonderful!

NYC Taxi Shots said...


Ceebie said...

Yummy! I love the way you start first with the small bones of our hands...Very nice. And thanks for the prompt suggestion!

Catherine said...

It's a great poem - reminded me of the time when we were children when we presented my mother with about thirty tiny fish called leatherjackets for obvious reasons - that we had caught in our fish trap - and she devotedly made fish cakes from them. She swore she would never do it again, way too fiddly :)


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