Tag Archives: poem

The Peace of Baked Things… A Poem, Plus Bonus Muffin Recipe

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What do you do when you’re discouraged about the state of the world?

I bake muffins. And jot poems.

With apologies to Wendell Berry’s poem The Peace of Wild Things:

The Peace of Baked Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I can’t sleep at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I creep down to the kitchen, socks on cold wood.
A clatter of bowls, hiss of spray on pans,
and a pillow of flour.
Leavening a perfect mound, whiter than white.
Follow directions and all will be well.

Now the liquid: thick buttermilk;
melted butter, a risen sun grinning wickedly from its bowl;
and an egg–the cracked one, from when my son fumbled the carton.
I whisk, wincing at the memory of his frustrated tears.

Then a pause over the two bowls.
Master over this one thing, I can suspend time indefinitely,
stop the culinary combustion for as long as I wish.

But such sovereignty is foolish.
The mess is meant to be mixed,
folded, scooped, baked,
and warmed–
for the teen who wakes herself before dawn,
the long-haired girl with the cat-ear headband,
the boy who broke the eggs.

~

Brown Sugar Butter Pecan Muffins (or loaf)

adapted from Real Easy Recipes

INGREDIENTS
2-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices; blend in brown sugar.
    Combine egg, buttermilk, and butter; add to flour mixture, stirring to blend well. Stir in chopped nuts.
  2. Scoop batter into 12 greased muffin tins (or a greased and floured 9-by-5-inch loaf pan). Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (45 to 50 minutes for loaf) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

~

Psst… my 2015-2016 workbook/playbook is still available for a couple more days.
Find out more.
Get the workbook now.

Photo Credit: “baking” by Ballookey Klugeypop, Flickr, creative commons license.

“Grief” — for Ash Wednesday

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A couple of Sundays ago, in those restless moments before the alarm goes off but you know it’s about to, Robert and I heard a large thud and the power went out. It came on 30 minutes later.

We assumed that a transformer blew, but later we saw one of the entrances to our subdivision was blocked off. Beyond the barricade was a police cruiser, repair truck, and a car. Or half a car. The front was completely smashed.

We later learned more about the accident. Or at least, the two pertinent facts. There was alcohol involved, and a person died.

Someone was driving drunk at 6:00 in the morning.

A person died at the entrance to our subdivision.

The next day, when the street had opened, I was taking the girls to choir when I saw the crowd of people at the crash site, with flowers and stuffed animals and notes. And, I saw tonight after dark, electric candles.

I’ve long been fascinated with roadside memorials. And this new one, so close to where my kids walk to school and where I begin almost every one of my runs, reminded me of the following poem, which I wrote about a different roadside memorial many, many years ago.

It seems appropriate to share it before Ash Wednesday.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

To dust all things return.

“Grief”

I.
you are remarkably sober
as you assemble what you need,
a strange array of supplies:
glue, feathers, cardboard, flowers, wire;
and you fashion a set of wings
(yes wings),
and a funeral bouquet,
and a sign that says Rest in Peace
in black marker
in your best script,
and you take it to the tree
with the bark ripped off,
right there,
at the ruthless bend in the road.

you hang the wings
well above the tree’s white wound,
and nestle the bouquet
between two roots,
and as you affix the sign
a car speeds by,
slicing the air as it goes.
another car passes, and another,
and at first
the gusts knock you off balance,
but you learn to adjust,
to brace yourself,
to stand firm and lean in.

but still,
how dare these people
glide past,
floating on the waves of radio songs,
laughing into their phones?

II.
you think about the place often,
but you don’t return for some time.
you can’t, because
the busyness of your mourning has tipped over
into the business of your
getting back to
getting on with
moving forward with
living
life.
plus, well,
it’s embarrassing, all your grief on
crude display.
so you leave the site untended;
it’s just easier.

but
sooner or later you must return,
straighten the feathered wings,
remove the sign that bled black letters,
and clear out the wilted blooms,
or maybe just crush them into brown confetti
that trembles into the road.

fresh flowers were the right decision at first
(vibrant, real, momentary, like she was)
but now it’s time for practical silk, and you cry,
not because she deserves better than fakes, though she does,
but because silk lasts awhile, and you know now,
this is going to take much longer than you thought.
so you secure those wings even tighter,
and you plant those silk flowers
secure, for the long unchanging time.

III.
now’s the season
when nothing much happens.
you glide by the place, just like the others;
though you slow and breathe, you don’t stop.

as time goes on, you notice:
the bright, fake flowers grimace on, stupidly,
as if put there only yesterday,
but
the cardboard wings have aged:
the feathers are dulled,
the edges are worn,
the fringes are ragged;
despite all your hard work,
they are becoming more and more
an organic part of things.

it is the paradox of grief,
always fading,
always and ever new.

~

photo credit: MTSOfan via photopin cc