Category Archives: poetry & lyrics

words that move me, some from others, some mine.

field trip

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on the Memphis side of the Hernando de Soto Bridge

Maybe a field trip to Marion wasn’t such a good idea, I thought, stuck in the stop-and-slow on the Hernando Bridge, bouncing ever so slightly from a cosmos of 18-wheelers. But I really needed some big sky and wide open spaces.

The Big Muddy is murkier than usual and has surged deep into West Memphis. But the corn is up, ears already fat and round, the size of a man’s fist. Rice fields are exuberantly green from so much rain. And there’s more coming, overhead clouds plump and milky enough to satisfy Howard Hughes.

I don’t know why the tree died but its skeleton is like silver in the sun,
reaching up as if to reanimate itself as a still living thing.
It could happen on a day like today.

I meet some people who are happy to see me and my money. At a tiny charity shop, I buy a whole bag of stuff for friends I haven’t met yet. On a nearby shelf, a radio is tuned to a talk show. The guest tells her host that he must be sanctified for his works to be good.

I decide this is Cheat Day and drive to a shady parking lot to eat my drive-thru burger and fries. Across the street is an older house I would love to own. I picture myself on the porch, looking at paint swatches for the trim.

Heading back, I take the old route home on a 2-lane, where there is hardly any traffic. I wish I could play hooky for the rest of the day. But work is waiting and I’m glad for it. And my whole body is smiling.

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Improv Tom Kha Gai

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I had most of the ingredients for tom kha gai but I just didn’t have time to skip out to the Asian grocery for traditional elements of this soup, like kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Shiitake, oyster or maitake mushrooms weren’t available at my grocery but baby bellas are a nice substitute.

I had bought a jar of almond butter that had way too much oil floating on the top. So I poured it off and used it to saute my onions. SUCH amazing flavor. But ordinarily I would use EVOO.

There is no substitute for fresh ginger and cilantro. There just isn’t. So if you have them, use instead of ground spices. Sauté a sliced 1/2-inch nub of fresh ginger with your onions and add a handful of chopped cilantro at the very end.

If you want to use precooked chicken, add it at the mushroom stage.

Sambal oelek is my favorite way to add heat to a dish. But you can use red pepper flakes, Louisiana Hot Sauce or sriracha sauce as you like. I would advise not adding so much that you drown out the other spices.  But, hey, this is your soup, you can do whatever you want.

If you have more people than soup or want to stretch it out, ladle it over a bowl of rice noodles or vermicelli. IMHO, nothing is finer than finding noodles at the bottom of my soup.

INGREDIENTS
extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 fresh whole chicken breast, cubed
1 cup chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms

2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sambal oelek, more or less.  Or none.

salt to taste

DIRECTIONS
Heat olive oil over high heat in a Dutch oven and sauté onion for 2-3 minutes. Add peppers and sauté another minute or so until the onions are soft.

Add cubed chicken and cook just until all the pink disappears. Add a little more oil if you need to. Don’t overcook. It will finish during the simmer phase.

Stir in chicken broth and coconut milk and when it reaches a simmer, turn down the heat to continue simmering.

In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, ginger and coriander. Stir in soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar and sambal. Add a couple of tablespoons of the simmering broth to the bowl and stir well. Then add all this back to the pot and stir.

When your chicken has simmered for 10-15 minutes, add the mushrooms and simmer another 5-10 minutes. Then turn off the heat.

I like to let mine rest for 10-15 minutes. It’ll still be hot enough to eat but that allows the spices to continue to bloom.

Taste your broth and add salt, lime juice, soy sauce or sambal as you like. Garnish with fresh cilantro if you have it.

nightmare

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the fabric of life is torn from me.
I cannot bind these strips of bleeding flesh with your tears.

circles are widening on the canvas.
I fill them with pale light.
the blackness around them wonders why.
I have no reply. just go away.

pretend I was never here.
make it mean something.
otherwise it was all just a nightmare.

Mexican Quicherrole

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20161117_113009This one was easy. I had all the ingredients on hand that I’d bought for other recipes and didn’t use. The pico was on its last legs and was the inspiration for this. Makes a 9″ x 13″ casserole; serves 6-8, depending on size and appetite of diners.

INGREDIENTS:

Two refrigerated pie crusts, room temp
Six eggs
One can evaporated milk (or 1.75 c regular milk, half&half, etc.)
One 10-oz tub of pico de gallo (or a drained can of Rotel. Or your own chopped tomato, onion and jalapeno)
One cup finely grated Mexican blend cheese (or your own… well, you get it)
A big bunch of fresh spinach, torn into pieces (I used half a bag of bagged fresh).
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with the pie crusts.
If they overlap, that’s OK. If they hang outside the pan, just fold them over the top of the casserole.  Make them pretty if you want to.  Obviously I like the asymmetric look.

In a large bowl, gently whisk the six eggs.
Add milk and whisk again.
Stir in pico.
Add the spinach and cheese and stir again.
Salt and pepper to taste.
(You may wish to S&P at table if pico or cheese is salty.)

Pour into pastry-lined pan and cover pan with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes or until set (filling doesn’t jiggle when you shake the pan).

Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so before serving.
Refrigerate leftovers (if there are any).

warm front

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just two hours away
the storm grows heavy

the trees bash the sky
with great bales of wind

and the unlikely spout
of an ice cream van

burbles “jingle all the way”
down a childless avenue

in the first week of April
in the middle of the day

the dove falls silent
with her rooftop forecast

my body sings with tiredness
as my thoughts take cover

even napping now and then
in a lullabye of weather

one street over

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One street over
grapevine reindeer
celebrate their faded glitter bows

One street over
phlox and jonquils
push through thatch and leavings

One street over
clothes, stilettos
piled onto a windshield

End? Hiatus? Who can know
this crazy Memphis winter.

triage

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when Faith is a well-chewed pencil point breaking mid-page,

on the periphery, Hope quietly burps and squints through a frazzled curl.

The skyline returns to its place in the distance
while Love finds a spot not far from the marker,

merrily beaming and resolute as the greening wood.

~ for Rachel

read the book

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I’ve been to his home, Rowan Oak, in Oxford many times. But before last night I’d never read a William Faulkner novel.

I know, I know; I’m already ashamed.

Maybe it’s because I always tried to start out with “The Sound and the Fury.” By the second page I still hadn’t figured out what the heck was going on. So I always copped to rather more soothing reading.

But James Franco’s “As I Lay Dying” was on Netflix. As it was Christmas weekend and I had a scarf to knit, I figured, what the heck: another California actor trying to play a country boy. Let’s see how bad this is. “The Beverly Hillbillies” has persistently informed Hollywood’s iconic Southerner and we’re still trying to live it down.

As a director, Franco excelled. But it was Tim Blake Nelson who knocked my socks off. I have known people like Anse Bundren and am probably related to one or two. So my impressions of the film were visceral.

In the Delta, you go about your business in the rain. It’s not unusual to see someone on the street without a raincoat. But in Faulkner’s narrative, oldest son Cash works in a downpour, as both tribute and grief.

His sister, Dewey Dell, faces her dilemma with a naivete that speaks to a different time. Her situation, unfortunately, threatens today’s young woman under the yoke of regressive legislation.

An obsessive fatalism ruled the Bundren family. Burdened by such a mission, they tromped on the tender shoots of Providence. The message was not lost on me.

I located a PDF of the novel and downloaded it last night. I did not stop until I read the last page. Today my eyeballs feel blistered and my attention wanders from my work because I have downloaded “The Sound and the Fury.” Now that I have a feel for Faulkner’s cadence and convoluted narrative, I feel empowered to try it again. Also, I’m excited to see if I learn more new words. I had never experienced the term “pussel-gutted,” but I plan to use it in a comment soon.

Franco made “Sound/Fury” into a movie this year. I think this time I’ll read the book first.

waiting

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I wait in the silence
that echoes her leaving
the thread on the cushion
the light on the wall

I fade from the moment
and sharpen the corners
and tread on the threshold
and clumsily falter

Those places avoided
left gaping and dusky
now sit on the hour
like stones on a moth

But love idly murmurs
some word that has meaning
finds patience in waiting
while I wait for you.

tribute

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You sleep on the sofa because you put the sheets in the dryer this morning before work.  Tonight you’re too tired to put them back on the bed.

You go to work with bronchitis because you used all your sick days nursing your kid through his cold.

You went to your kid’s soccer game last night instead of going to the grocery store.

So you’re drinking your coffee black this morning because you gave the rest of the milk to your kid at breakfast.

There’s a 33% chance that you spend more than half of your paycheck on rent.

You pay on average a third of your income on child care. In New York, Minnesota and Massachusetts, if your child is 3 or under, it’s more than half.

This is because you’re paid less than single dads or married men with the same education. If you were paid fairly, your income would increase by 17 percent and your poverty rate would fall by half.

You’re a single mom.

Some folks say, well, you’d be making more money if you’d opted not to have a child.

Some of these same folks want to limit your birth control options.

It’s tough for you. But your love, unlike money, can buy happiness, and it comes to you through hugs and butterfly kisses and nite-nite prayers.

I’m proud of you.