Sunday, April 2, 2017

PAD Day 2: On Lasagna and Marge Piercy

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo:
(1) Write a "not today" poem, and
(2) write a "recipe" poem.

Probably my favorite recipe poem is by Marge Piercy. I took a week-long workshop with Marge in 2012 on her home turf in Cape Cod, and it was a marvelous experience. Last October, she invited previous participants to a short "followup" workshop on Columbus Day weekend. As with my prior workshop, I was the only male attendee, but also as before, I had a great time getting advice and sharing poetry and critique. Marge is a very forthright and honest person, and I appreciate her frank and helpful critique of my work. I also enjoyed meeting and working with a bunch of very talented women. The only downside to my trip was a medical emergency, but I was rescued from discharge by Marge's mensch of a husband, Ira Wood, in time to participate in the Sunday evening reading at the Wellfleet Library.

So here is my poem:

A Nice Lasagna

I feel like a nice lasagna -
first I'll get out that long box of noodles,
stiff and wide as boards, and boil them
till they're soft and ribbony, all while browning
some sweet sausage and ground beef in a pan,
sizzling down till crumbly.  I'll drain the fat,
stir in some tomato paste and puree,
toss in some basil and oregano,  
and just a pinch of sugar.
While that's cooking, I will whip up some eggs,
ricotta, and parsley into a cream.

Then the assembly begins  -
tomato sauce on the bottom
("gravy", my wife's family calls it)
a roadbed of noodles, paved with ricotta mixture
("orogot", in their dialect), and a dusting
of parmesan and grated mozzarella ("mootzarell").
Then I repeat the process, creating two more layers
of delicious pasta, sauce and cheese,
top it with more sauce, and bake it
till it bubbles on the sides of the dish
and the noodles just start to brown at the corners.

I'll place it on the table, cut it in squares,
and lift them piping hot onto your dishes,
so you can see all the strata of ingredients,
the geology of my labors,
the archaeology of generations of cooks,
and you will sing my praises
all the way to dessert.

But not today. No, today I'm exhausted.
We're calling out for pizza.
Who wants pepperoni?

And here is Marge's:

My mother gives me her recipe

Take some flour. Oh, I don't know, 
like two-three cups, and you cut
in the butter. Now some women
they make it with shortening, 
but I say butter, even though
that means you had to have fish, see? 

You cut up some apples. Not those
stupid sweet ones. Apples for the cake, 
they have to have some bite, you know? 
A little sour in the sweet, like love. 
You slice them into little moons. 
No, no! Like half or crescent
moons. You aren't listening. 

You mix sugar and cinnamon and cloves, 
some women use allspice, till it's dark
and you stir in the apples. You coat
every little moon. Did I say you add
milk? Oh, just till it feels right. 
Use your hands. Milk in the cake part! 

Then you pat it into a pan, I like
round ones, but who cares? 
I forgot to say you add baking powder. 
Did I forget a little lemon on the apples? 
Then you just bake it. Well, till it's done
of course. Did I remember you place
the apples in rows? You can make
a pattern, like a weave. It's pretty
that way. I like things pretty. 

It's just a simple cake. 
Any fool can make it
except your aunt. I
gave her the recipe
but she never
got it right.

(From The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems, 1980-2010; Knopf, 2012. Used with permission of the author.)

1 comment:

Vince Gotera said...

Man, that made me hungry. Excellent details.