This September Night Brings Frost

 

Today I picked all the winter squash, tomatoes and beans, because tonight will be our first frost. I ate the last squash blossoms, stuffedwith goat cheese and bread crumbs, and sauteed in batter. It’s an ephemeral treat.  They are pure summer, or, in this case, the tail end of summer. What does this season have you wishing to eat, or cooking up?

Gathering Supper

Russian kale picked 

at dusk sprinkled 

with pine needles

miso and wine splash

onto roasted squash

a little tipsy   all of us 

mushroom-filled oak logs 

pop like firecrackers

next to Moss Brook

from the forest 

to the skillet a sizzle of 

butter, and garlic shitake

life dances from seed and spore

from fallen trees at forest edge

onto our table tonight

 

 

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September

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The Apple Barn

He lived alone by the old apple barn

after being released from confinement

he was happy except 

in the extreme heat of the early autumn days

when the bees would hoard all of the honey

and dive into the barrels of warm cider he made

like aero-stuntmen from the old days.

He’d cuss and leave them to it

the bees would fall drunk around him

on the sweetness of the cider

He lived alone by the old apple barn

gathering apples where they fell

watching the stars on summer nights

Steering his dreams by moonlight

after being released fromconfinement

He was happy except 

in the extreme heat of the early autumn days

When memories bobbed up and dived

so many leftover dreams

when he lived alone by the old apple barn

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Cooking Up History


I’ve made stuffed peppers and tomatoes for supper— pushed by the cool turn of weather, and ripeness from the garden. The menu? It comes from childhood, and made its way into this poem. Cooking is one way to make history and reframe memories.

I wrote this after a conversation with a fellow named Andy, who showed up at my house to help me figure out if I could put solar on the rood. We talked as we both were Armenian, and it turned out his Grandpa came from the same town my grandmother did. They both survived the Armenian genocide, when most poeple in their town didn’t. They both came to this country. They had to be sponsered. For my grandmother and her surviving siblings, it meant that thier uncle, who had ‘saved’ them, had to arrange marriages in order to bring them to the United States. Our respecdtive grandparents lived 150 miles from each other. Their stories didn’t come together until Andy and I spoke.

Refugees from Endearments

He always wondered
what endearments his grandfather had uttered in the language
he didn’t understand.

Sturdy and tall, Grandfather commanded attention with blue eyes that noticed everything.
Torn from Hye mountains of Kharpet,
he settled in the foothills near Albany.

Grandfather planted string beans and cabbages each spring, cherished the grape leaves rather than the purple globed fruits.

He tended gnarled quince trees,
attempted mulberries and silkworms. Grandmother prepared stuffed peppers, simmered okra with lamb on the cookstove.

Cleaned up and on best behavior,
the family drove up to visit on Sundays, dressed in church clothes that they exchanged for play clothes later.

When Grandfather stepped on the porch to proclaim dinner, he’d appraise them as they tumbled up the porch steps
to wash hands at the kitchen sink.

He’d watch with piercing eyes and pronounced tutum golukh,
as they scrambled into the kitchen tucking in their shirttails

This endearment still stayed
with him forty years later.
It didn’t matter what the words meant, just that they were endearments uttered

each time the family drove to visit. These words from Armenia traveled to New England
with refugees of that time, endearments
that had now grown rusty from disuse.

Settled with family of his own, one day he found another child of survivors from that distant village who knew
the mountain dialect and translated.

Ah yes. I know that phrase well.
My grandmother often said that to me. 
Tutum golukh—pumpkin head, foolish, empty, like a gourd.

Remember, in our culture you don’t want
to draw too much attention to what is precious.

I wonder about my readers. What speaks to you in this poem? What memories do you have of family and food that gives you nourishment, or perhaps, a funny twist? I felt badly sharing what the words meant to Andy, Butwe shared this dialect that was dying out. I knew how he felt, so I decided to translate. And yes, we both had tears running down our faces.

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An intimate Outdoor Reading

POETRY READING

Sept 1, Tuesday, one pm.

from my new chapbook, Look Behind You

Outdoors at the Warwick Community School

Sponsered by the Warwick Women’s Guild.

The audience will bring their own chairs and wear facemarks,

and be spread safely apart.

If your’e in this area, I’d love to see you.

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Preparing Food is Like a Prayer

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Tibetan Monks making a sand mandala

Preparing food for people is like a prayer. I like to enter into it as I would  a meditation, open mind, relaxed, and alert.I might follow a recipe, or punt with what I have on hand. We nurture someone’s physical body and spirit when we feed them well. We are part of the connection from soil, to plant, to cook pot and plate. And then, compost. The cycle renews.

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When I worked with preschool children, we made mozzarella cheese. There is something magical about the change from liquid to solid. You take raw milk, fresh from the farm, heat it, stir in a few things. A few moments later, it’s solid enough to have the spoon rest on the surface.Next you put on gloves, and begin to pulling it, like taffy, and shaping it into mozzarella.  It’s no less stunning that pulling a rabbit out of a hat, pure magic. We also made  vegetable sushi. What could be easier? Slicing up bits of vegetables into rice, then rolling it into nori on the bamboo mat.

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Kabocha squash blossoms

 

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Okra flower

When I worked at Head Start, I got permission to make our classroom breakfasts, and I shopped for the materials. We’d have fresh sliced fruit, applesauce that we made, oatmeal, peanut butter on toast, or hard boiled eggs. It had to be fast and easy. We talked about food that the kids liked to eat, or wanted to try to make.That’s how we ended up making English muffin pizzas for breakfast and fancy french toast. The breakfast table became a touchpoint of calm for our day. 

Now, during these pandemic times, my partner and I have slid into lazy breakfast habits. I used to be up by 7AM, ride my inside bike a couple miles before breakfast, and then work til around one pm, lunch time. Now mornings are off to lazier starts. Breakfast is usually more than home made yogurt and fruit. And I’m learning how to cook without using wheat. I’m grinding quinoa and using oat and almond flour.  

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A few days ago I made pancakes with the wild blueberries were that  prolific this summer. I scooped almond meal, cornmeal & buckwheat together, added baking powder and sour dough, a few eggs, almond milk, kefir, and a sprinkle of cardamon. The blueberries were sprinkled on the top as they cooked. Jim has happily eaten all experimental cooking. 

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Often I’m inspired by whatever produce is in front of me. The garden produce takes me on the journey. Preparation is like a prayer. It can put me ‘in the zone’ of creativity. Sometimes, like for the blueberry pie I made, in the middle of baking I realize  the ‘tug’ to baking it is my deceased family.  I’m making it for my  family of origin, when we sat around the table 40 years ago. My mom loved blueberry anything, and  mum, my Gram, and I all made pies. We sat around the kitchen table toegether is night. Making that pie was like saying a prayer for their well being, wherever they may be.  

Each morning I’m drawn again into the vegetable garden, in the company of bees. What are you doing that feels like meditation, or prayer, that gives calming, creativeness, and joy to you, duirng this cocooning time?  Where you you find yourself drawn to?

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small eft rests on a potato leaf

Best,

Elaine

 

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Cape Cod & Clams

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Cape Cod National Seashore, Provincetown

 

For many New Englanders, Cape Cod means summer time and memories of years gone by. From the hidden cove beaches in Falmouth down to Cape Cod National Seashore, there are many unique beaches. From sandy beach bluffs in Provincetown, if your timing is good, you might watch whales swim past.

I also love the tiny beach in Wellfleet, where I can eat at Mac’s Seafood on the Pier. I remember the warmer beaches in Falmouth. My family rented a cottage each year at Saint Gregory’s Armenian Language Village and Language School, in East Falmouth, on Green Pond. Each year we’d walk up the road to the Barnstable County Fair, pick strawberries, and dig for clams. My cousins and I  walked the mile to the Menahunt Beach if we didn’t have a ride. I wrote this poem for my cousin Ken, who recently passed away.

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Couisin Kenholding a horseshoe crab, with Deb & Karen.

Falmouth Vacation

On vacation Gram was the cook. She prepared

clam cakes, spaghetti sauce with steamers, stuffed quahaugs.  

We’d find the inlet by Menuhaunt Beach, spread out 

in the warm water. We dug clams all afternoon, gathering

basins of clams, huge pots of them. Aunts, uncles,

cousins, a whole tribe, crouched in salty water

with any kind of digging tool we could find.

Our first supper always began with steamed little necks 

and corn. Once my sister Mary ate so many she got sick, 

couldn’t look at another clam for three days. 

Karen, Ken, and Debby roasted marshmallows 

over coals. Ken roasted his until they drooped off the stick,

crispy on the outside, melted to perfection inside.  

Auntie Bea and Auntie Lil made drinks at happy hour, 

served small whiskey sours to Vickie and me, the oldest, 

when we were fifteen. We felt sophisticated. Mom still

used the walker then. We gathered outdoors on folding 

chairs by Green Pond when crickets sang in the dusk, 

watched sunset darken the tide to purple.

For that whole week our world was good.

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Chatham

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Blueberries & Nan

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I’ve recently found several old photographs of my first visits to Glen Echo Lake,  picking berries and swimming.  This is the likely the first time I picked berries for my breakfast. Berries are a theme, like strung pearls, that link my Nan, my Mom, and me.

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Nan

In Cambridge it’s snowing softly, and Nan

sets the table for Sunday supper. She reaches

into the fridge for butter, cold slices of ham,

a jar of pigs feet. We crowd chairs around the

table. I sit on Mum’s lap with a slice of bread, 

butter, ham. Not food I’m used to. Mum and I

are quiet. I wonder who was here for dinner, 

why we only come for leftovers, late in the day.

My older cousin Catherine shows me how to play games 

I don’t know yet, and Nan hands me a rectangular tin 

with two handles. She says for you, a lunchbox. 

I wonder at it. It’s small, and I have a Roy Roger’s 

lunch box at home. She doesn’t know what I have there,

where I live with my Armenian grandmother, where

we speak another language, where dad whispers to me

in Irish, sings lullabies and tells me stories at bedtime.

I’m not used to having extra anything, and I’m doubtful

of this gift. She offers you can use it to pick blueberries. 

When summer comes we pile into our car, pick up Nan, cousins

Catherine and Kristeen, and Aunt Maureen to pick berries in Stoughton.

We pick wild berries along the dead end road, at the edge 

of Paul’s sheep field, to Glen Echo Lake. We have purple lips

and tongues. Blueberry heaven, and we’re happy here.

Wild blueberries plonk on the bottom of my special tin.

 

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My Auntie Maureen is holding me on her lap.

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From the Past

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This is a review of my first Chapbook, on utube.  Stay cool!

 

Elaine

 

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Oldcastle Ireland

 

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Loughcdrew is in OldCastle,  less than an hours drive from Dublin, it’s a powerful place to visit for a day, or half a day. https://www.loughcrewmegalithiccentre.com/loughcrew-cairns/.

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Loughcrew Passage

Broken passage tombs,

scattered relics beneath.

Old bones and altars still

hold the strength of Danu.

Carved inscriptions 

endure in grey stone.

Feel  cool air move past

your calves to carry you 

where soft light radiates

from large carved stones.

Did you ever think you’d

stand in the in-between, 

green mist to light your way

to the furthest altar, to find 

what is left there for you?

Reach out to what you cannot see.

Hear the ancient ones. What 

do they whisper before you rise?

Do you have a place that your mind returns to? Please share in the comments section.

Stay Well,

Elaine

 

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Glencolumkille Donegal

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Folk Village

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Had the fates not sent the pandemic, I’d be back in Ireland, taking a class at Oideas Gael, www.oideasgael.ie . I haven’t been back to this small town for eight years, and the place tugs at me. Oideas Gael is open during summers and there are wonderful courses in culture language, arts, ecology, history, and archeology, as well as the Irish language. I’ve met people from literally all around the world in this small village.

 

There are a couple of small groceries and pubs,  Oideas Gael School, and a Folk Village, www.glenfolkvillage.com with a small shop and a cafe for soups, teas, and treats.  The beach is right across the road.

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I was there at the same time as the Fiddler’s Week, and I met a man whose family had left the village.  It was the first time anyone from his family had returned. During the hunger times, his family moved to the next county.  They had to leave, and he explained why.  Have you ever heard of the soup cauldrons or pots used during the hunger times?  It’s a story that chills and saddens me.  Later, I wrote this poem.  I took the photo of the soup pot below at the folk village.

Fiddler From Sligo

 

We were strangers sharing

the house for this week. 

He tuned his fiddle and turned, 

looking out the window,

towards the old soup cauldron.

I waited for the kettle to boil

when he turned to me, quiet

tears running down his face.

I’m Liam. I used to live here. 

My family did I mean; 

we lived in this village, 

But they took the soup. 

They drank the soup,

then we had to go away.  

We looked to the famine pot, 

used during the hunger times 

when his family made hard choices,

times difficult to endure.

We left here after

we drank the soup. 

We took the soup.

Then we had to go away.

 

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May all beings have ease in their minds and full bellies.

May all beings be free to follow their choice of religions.

Best Health to you,

Elaine

 

Posted in Ireland, Ireland travel, Poems, poetry | 1 Comment