We used to talk about the Freshman Ten, that weight gain that so many 18 year olds picked up when they went off to college. This year, a lot of us have been talking about — and living with — the Covid Ten, that weight gain that so many of the rest of us picked up from having little to do these past several months but cook and eat. For those of us that think a lot about food, a few poems.
Miles Coon is the founding director of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and today serves as the president of that festival’s board. He says, “Poetry stops me in my tracks and in its tracts. I used to think my days began while I ate breakfast and read the newspaper. My poem ‘Preparing Breakfast’ says stay awake to what you’re doing, everything you’re sensing.” Here’s Miles Coon’s “Preparing Breakfast” from Passager Issue 50.
I lose myself in the slow peeling
of my morning banana, the bed
of bran flakes waiting for each
disc to fall from the small red
knife, every starry-eyed slice
some kind of miracle. Zen
in the art of blueberry sprinkling,
not thinking when the ripe
peach yields its juice to steel.
I swear I can see the origins
of life in the pit, its surrounding
flesh, and in milk spilt to the bowl
with the articulation of my wrist.
On the surface of the spoon, my
face rests before I lift it to my lips.
. . .
Miles Coon’s poem “Preparing Breakfast” from Passager Issue 50.
Peter Harris taught at Colby College for 40 years. His poem “In Praise of Iceberg Lettuce” grew out of a speech he gave supporting the gay marriage law in Maine. He said, “It occurred to me that at least iceberg lettuce realizes its potentiality, whereas we humans are constantly betraying our own deepest nature, which is compassion.” Here’s Peter Harris’s “In Praise of Iceberg Lettuce.”
Now iceberg is just so
last century, hopelessly prior
to our current romaine,
arugular, field green regime.
Yet we and iceberg share
44% of our DNA. Unlike us,
its perfect, pale green head never feels
it necessary to speak. If it could,
iceberg might say, language
is the consolation prize for those
who don’t fulfill their potential,
those who live afraid of the quieting
knife, those in jails of flesh behind
bars of bone grown to hide hearts
no longer content, no longer green.
. . .
“In Praise of Iceberg Lettuce” by Peter Harris, from Passager Issue 52.
After a career as a public school speech pathologist, Shirley Brewer got a couple more degrees, an MFA and a diploma in mixology — she refers to it as passing the bar and now considers herself licensed to mix both martinis and metaphors. She says that every poem is an internal adventure, the poet inviting the reader to experience the depth of her or his vision. She likes Carl Sandburg’s definition of poetry as “the journey of a sea animal living on land, waiting to fly in the air.” In 2017, Passager published Shirley Brewer’s book A Little Breast Music.
Here from that book, “To a Lemon.”
I’m a sucker for tang,
the way you click with gin
in plush hotels and honky tonks,
while limes shrivel in their skins.
You give yellow a good name,
tease my sweet martini.
Sugar blunts your thrill;
your seeds anoint my summer.
Still, life paints you pretty
beside the blue ceramic mug.
Wedge or slice,
you’re a spunky star —
your pulp, your zest,
your wicked scent.
Even on dark days, lemon,
you lift my melancholy.
. . .
“To a Lemon” by Shirley Brewer from her book A Little Breast Music.
One more Shirley Brewer poem, “Wings to Go.”
Every two-bit corner in my neighborhood
offers carry-out —
remove what you want from the premises.
In front of a wings to go banner,
I order some purple ones
fixed to my shoulders, a pair of props
lifting me high above neon billboards,
last chance sales, chain stores,
battered laundromats, bingo palaces,
flea market free-for-alls,
going one, going two, going eighty,
I’ll leave behind the gristle, fatty skin,
excess bone and the plastic jar of hot sauce,
soar like a goddess relinquishing the coop.
. . .
“Wings to Go” by Shirley Brewer.
Shirley’s definition of shame is a bare wrist.
To buy A Little Breast Music or to learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to passagerbooks.com. You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.
“I’m Joyce Ritchie, a Passager board member. On behalf of Kendra, Mary, and all of us at Passager, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you who made a year-end gift of support. Your contributions will help keep Passager burning bright in all of 2021. Thank you.”
For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.
The cover art for this episode is a detail of a painting by Steve Matanle.