poems of food and love
To the love and the beauty in a life
Devoted to making the ideal real
Through poetry, food, and philosophy,
To making the real ideal
Through a love of conversation,
Dining, and the arts.
And most of all
To the woman of ginger scented skin,
Who is forever rolling,
And evolving, who embraces
The spiritual, and the sensual,
The logical and the heart,
She who is many and is still one.
She who so lovingly shares
Her life with mine.
May we all be so blessed
As to live with this passion and design.
WHERE IS GOD IN ALL OF THIS
The moment the leaves hit the ground
And I feel the chill snap of autumn
The day that I stand in a mound
Of red, grey, orange and yellow leaves
This early night when everything
Around me begins to turn to cool
When rose bushes cling to a final flower
When my tomatoes shine more red
Than red in this lingering hour
The color rises in beloved’s smile
The grill sends smokes signals
All over the neighborhood
A mission bell rings and my wife asks
“Where is God in all of this?” Good?
And I want to say ‘in all things’
But it’s more beautiful than that,
I really believe all things are in God.
The hickory charcoals pop and glow
I lay a long rack of Ossabow pork ribs
Across the grill grates and close the lid.
And really, the best that I can do
On a day like this is cherish the questions
That flow across my wife’s beautiful lips
I look forward to looking up through
The bare trees at night and feeling as if
I could touch the harvest moon
I can’t wait to eat, relax and tell stories, drink
Real hot chocolate on the back porch at night,
To just sit around in flannel pajamas
And think how funny it is that here in Georgia
We get cold when the wind chill hits that 40.
I like that.
HEY, HOW WAS YOUR DAY
The world is new each and every day.
The way I see you changes and regenerates,
A different beauty with each movement is born,
With each smile or simple discussion you become
Something more, something greater than now.
“How was your day?” “How is the weather?”
“Did you eat?” “I thought of you today.”
All the day reaches higher, as if Santana’s
“Dance, Sister, Dance” began playing in the background,
As if every time we begin a conversation there is a song
There is a dance and then the peace of being together.
Yes, friendship and love acts this way.
Loving like this is all that I need today.
Cook, eat, talk, love, be together.
Yes, I do say yes to everything that is you, my love
Admiration and desire,
A set of figures in ceramics,
There’s a silver platter waiting
The one I never had.
And when the clock tick tocks
Like 6 or so I go into the kitchen.
There you are my garden,
My scented sunlight
And cloudless moon horizon.
Give me all the fields of bamboo
In the world, give me tulip maples
And groves of naval oranges,
They will never match this flowing
Life I feel near and in your arms,
They are so beautiful, so still,
You are so beautiful, so electric.
I stand on the porch leaning,
Singing to the dogs and the pines,
Turning to the house and singing
To you, my love, my darling
Dark eyed beloved,
I am the cloth around your shoulders,
I am the ginger in your tea,
And for me you are the promised
Silver platter, the one so many
Dream and talk about,
The one I never thought
Would be for me.
FOR JORDY MAE, FOR DAN, FOR A LIFE OF LOVE
Seasick on humidity and sticky hot winds,
Watching roses wilt beneath the unforgiving sun
I reach over to this glass; I remember a friend passed,
This tender sweet orange pekoe tea,
Yeah, there’s more than one way to beat the heat,
There is a way to make it all better.
Sipping, nodding my head to Drive By Truckers
On the stereo, singing on about Ronnie and Neal,
Singing about that light at the 40 Watt.
Looking around and back to the house,
Looking for love on a heatstroke day,
And I find it there by the counter in the kitchen
Making the salads to match all my burgers,
And her smile is like honey and smoke,
Like the steam off of ice at the top of my glass
She is cool, she is warm,
She is all woman In one beautiful frame,
In one tiny voice she is grace and love,
And me, I am her husband,
And all of this makes any day great,
All of this, even if I were alone would
Be a beautiful day, a beautiful day
To do something warm, something loving
For any one of my friends, Don, BJ, Mike or Tom,
For any day with friends is a good day,
And any day with friends, love and a smoky grill
Is a fantastic day, is almost as good
As a day out fly fishing on the sea,
Passing the time casting for snook with a beloved friend,
Fishing for that champion jack just another cast away.
And for all the friends who’ve come and gone
I raise a chicken leg and thank God for you all
For you all who are brothers in study and life,
In poetry, food and philosophy we are all one.
ABOUT SOUTHERN FOOD AND THE BLUES
Sweet Blind Lemon Jefferson sang
His Shuckin’ Sugar Blues about being
Dogged around by his bad loving baby
And he was happy shuckin sugar after she
Was gone, gone and worrying on some other river,
And he was better with his sugar,
With his sweet sugar cane cause he knew
The muddy water from which it came
And he knew the muddy water it was going to.
Mean Dock Boggs missed honey baby by his side,
He wanted pretty Polly to share long walks
And cook pork hocks when he was lonely,
All alone on that coal mining mountainside.
Son House, the man who taught the devil loving
Barefoot boy to play guitar was found frying chicken
In New York in 1963. He still had his walking shoes
But it took a while to find his blues.
His Death Letter found him drunk and hungry
Late in the yankee nights far away from 61 Hiway.
The Clarksdale man god of modern blues
Met his maker, gin poisoned, pants down
In the shadow of his crossroads after dinner
With another mans wife. Robert Johnson’s name
Falls over every song all full with fried eggs and sourwood honey,
Milking notes and words of meaning to this day.
Hobart Smith cooked chitlin’s on Sundays
After playing banjo and hill songs into the Blue Ridge dawn.
And we all know about how Southern Can Is Mine was
Every bluesman’s first commercial to buy some ham,
Or was it corn whiskey, corn bread when you’re happy,
Corn whiskey when you’re lonely,
corn whiskey when you’re dry.
And all down the line ever hungry
every day poor John Lee Hooker
With his blues is about being
hungry, horny, drunk and broke,
About always being hungry for more,
pots on, gas on high,
We are all still hungry,
even when we’re eating we’re hungry for more,
Never satisfied, never enough,
cause the food around us
Is the best we can find, grease is hot and the birds are ready,
The song is never the same, the blues just plays the game,
And me I’m a chef, all red clay, iron clad and blistered
By the roaring apple wood fires, red meat and fresh fish,
These blues are burned into my arms, these are the blues
That keep on playing, the bare boned songs from kudzu fields
And huckleberry patches, these are the songs that are ours alone,
The songs of the country, the country blues, our blues,
All hungry, horny, drunk and broke.
PREACHIN’ EATIN’ BLUES
You are what you eat eats sounds
Kinda like it’s from a hoodoo text
But it’s not. It’s that simple.
It’s that easy to follow.
Take notice of the things that your food
Is fed, be it fruit, vegetable, nut or meat
Everything needs something to survive,
Cause we take in and take out,
We have love and lost love
In the ground we cut and seed,
We return as much as we take (harvest)
We’re at the top of the bloody chain
Where you are what you eat
Is not the whole of the equation.
For a moment now, we are the thing
That consumes all things, clean things,
Earthly things, water and air things,
Take care of what we have,
Be aware and wise, dust your shoes
And sit still right here, shucking peas and corn,
Be that creature what other people wish that they were.
Brother it all begins with what you eat eats
And how you give back to the world.
Freely, happily, sharing spring lambs and hogs,
Giving back where you have to ask
Am I giving or am I taking away?
You are what you eat eats, sisters and mothers,
You are either creating or destroying,
We are what we eat eats, fathers and brothers,
We create and we give back to the world,
We are in the world and the world is all we have.
They do not know how to do right, says the Lord,
those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.
– Amos 3:10
– There are times I’ve seen more beauty and truth than allowed
And times I’ve seen more hatred and misunderstanding as well,
In food these things are settled by the taste,
But not so for hurried hearts or lives based upon the fight.
Good thing my loves are close and dear,
More alive in the home and in conversation,
Good thing. Really. Reach out, listen,
Show you care by the way you hear and the way
You care, not by the doing, but by the way,
And this is an important distinction. Really. The way.
Like the difference between butter and margarine,
Canola oil and olive oil, real corn and peanut oil,
There is a difference, and the difference is in love,
The that each good oil is used,
We really do choose butter and peanut oil
Lard and corn oil over all others, there is a reason,
And it shows, it shows in
The way we love, the way we set our table.
SQUASH CASSEROLE AND LAKE BREEZES
I remember the long ago
Of so many cherished things,
Of cook outs and barbecues,
Of morning roses and gardenia afternoons,
Walking without the balmy wind
And treading softened rocky sands
Along coastlines and river beds,
Sitting down every now and then
Just looking at the sky, breath brine and pine,
Looking at the clouds and green treetops
Thinking about the beautiful things
Like life and food and love and friends.
And I embrace this Spring feeling
With all my heart because each season
Brings me closer to my love of loves,
Crookneck squash and vidalia casseroles,
Tiny bites of peanut stuffed quail,
Blackberry preserves and White Lily biscuits,
And oh, yeah, by Lake Burton with
Family, friends and my darling wife,
Collecting long ago into today,
Placing today as the wish I wished
And holding her sweet hand
On these walks and holding her sweet
Heart inside my own Where each Spring is forever more,
Is forever more another banquet of my home.
Blue wave water runs riverside by green flecked beaches
Where we sit in the shade eating prosciutto, melon,
Strawberries, toast and cold sweet oranges,
Not just a warm breeze, a warm Gulf breeze winnows
Over the Sea dividing fog from sand and sea foam,
So yes, all we feel is the dry morning air of vacation,
And free time alone together or time just as you and I.
What a blast, this thing that is “us”, our traveling
To the oceans of the world for our vacations,
For our time alone from everything except each other,
Each other and the cities, the seamarks, the winds,
The new, the shock of the new in food, place and life,
And here, here we are neither traveler nor tourist
Here we are a world of our own alive in this place
In love today more than ever before.
FISHING SOUTH OF THE NANTAHALA TROUT FARMS
It is Winter,
The body calls for rich and fatty foods
To fight the wet, cold season here in Georgia.
And when you check the waistline and think
About all that you have eaten through the holiday season,
Then perhaps what we crave is not what we need.
What we need is near poetic,
A long day on the rocks casting at shadows,
Popping plugs and dragging bright flies,
Pulling in a few beauties, 16 ounces of cold fury,
And the days’ take is good, it is dinner.
Fresh trout: The delicious, the pale pink and tender,
The flavor of rushing cold water down hill and pasture,
The smell of mountain laurel and tulip maple,
A slight aroma of burning oak and pecan,
Butter popping up as cornmeal dusted fillets
Bask in the fuming wafts of smoke and oil,
And the wind coming in off of War Woman ridge
As you nestle in for a meal of Chatuga River rainbow trout.
Yeah, what we need and crave, well,
What we have is a few whole rainbow and several fillets,
All about a day or so old and all ready for the pot au feu, oven and pan.
WHEW! Shake off the day dream and move back home into the kitchen,
Into the home all warm and scented with orange and honey,
Baking bread and yes,
A dinner centered round pink fleshed trout..or was it perch?
HAPPY NEW YEAR,
forget the resolutions,
forget about what you are giving up,
just love as you wish to be loved,
and may you have all the joy
in your life every day in everything you do,
let the banquets flow
for your friends and family,
share the life and live to eat,
always live to eat.
Smile, the feast of life is now.
(OH MY LOVE SHE LOVES TO EAT, she is my love wherever
I am and in winter she is beautiful beside me
as we cook as we travel as we dine and laugh.)
Love knows no bounds but for that of the plate
Where like alone on the highway at 1
When it’s all lights and then darkness
All song and then silence,
This is the way my banquet of hearts
Comes and goes, bright-shade-dawn,
A feast and a joy, a joke and a giggle,
The clink of silver to porcelain plates.
Driving, arriving, cooking and dining,
Out of travel and out of love
This is the time when all lives embrace,
When we smile just for the moment
When we feel the warmth as warmth
And nothing more,
Nothing more than a conversation
And then again something more
Something like you and I together
Again for the seasons like those before
And those yet to become
And this is what I most adore
Knowing that again I will be,
That I will be with you and family.
The leaves are slow to fall
The colors quick to change
Pumpkin pies and raspberry tarts
Fill home kitchens everywhere
It is easy to see the Autumn shine
It is easy to feel the bright breath
Of November blanket these Georgia hills,
And me, me and my beloved,
With a good hot chocolate
And turkey leg it’s easy to sleep
Through this season, easy to take
It easy when the days are so calm.
October really does
Bring everything together
In my world of love, work and words.
Like the cool winds weaving
And bright leaves lingering,
My love herself just seems
Ever more beautiful,
The language and spirit
Of the table is stronger,
More flavorful, and then
I walk more briskly,
Talk smoothly of rhymes
And memorable poems,
Speak softly of dreams
And the harvest moon…
Yea, October, what a month,
What a beautiful place to be.
She is the grove and the land
The cluster of grapes upon the vine,
She is cream and star thistle honey,
She is the warmth that holds me
The smile in which I live,
But it’s football season
And the games are upon us
So “so long for now” darling,
Hello Larry Munson,
Let the games begin…
Pass the chips and chill the Dr. Pepper,
Sun flows like a river into the 6 o’clock dawn,
Warm Atlantic winds course across and down
The great green Appalachians just north of here,
Who would hear us walking in the near daylight
Is it the lost hawk above, the wandering mongrel pup?
Fallen black cherry branches crumble roadside,
White peonies bloom, the smell of anise rises,
Everything looks good in the summering morning
Where long awaited rain clouds hang on the blue.
We walk and begin to sweat, we walk together
And the weather talks back, a breeze here,
A thunderclap there, and still the sun shines,
The sun always shines in August here.
Hot, hot and then it’s humid, hot,
No real rain and still I’m drenched,
Standing in the kitchen chopping, boiling,
Roasting and chilling, putting a weeks
Food together so it’s all heat and eat,
Or even better grill and eat.
Outside the window a grey lawn yawns
Stretches in the breeze and goes back to sleep,
Somewhere out there is a link and a green
Just waiting for Pings and Big Bertha,
Callaway and Cobra, Odyssey putters
And me alone at dawn walking,
Smiling, turning a shoulder to the sky,
Looking out over the dale
Towards the next hole, towards the day
That opens so wide beneath the Southern Sun
In July, begs we all play just for a while,
Just for a day of golf and a laugh,
Just for today make it easy, make it charmed.
June light lays low on the pines and maples,
Cicada buzz and grasshopper clicks,
Mockingbird whistles from beneath a holly,
High above in the branches of a water oak
The local hawk sits and watches and waits.
Yeah, it’s near dark in the suburbs,
Dog walks and lawn mowers,
Grill smoke wafts between the houses,
A neighbor leans over and adjusts a stack
Of winter wood while I keep on pruning,
Pulling weeds and talking to the day lilies,
Cutting rye grass around a stand of hosta
And wild honeysuckle. Yeah, dusk.
Thinking about recipes and new menu
Items, thinking about dinner and fishing
And yeah, thinking about everything food
As I linger in the garden, hanging out
In the yard doing a lot of nothing
That is everything to me,
Hanging in the garden the way
I’ve always done, looking, thinking,
Touching, smelling, living,
Reflecting reaching towards the future,
Reaching towards and inside
What is beautiful and what is life.
What is life? It is this, and everything more.
Sunlight and the diamond spray of color
Rippling out from around my fly hitting the water.
I dream it’s a tuna rising up from the depths
And my skiff a sailboat on the Aegean,
The shoreline the oasis island of Limnos
And my beautiful love the ever goddess like waiting
For my return from this great adventure,
And then it hits, AWAKE! a one pound trout
On the North Chattahoochee in Helen, GA.
I am here, and it is always
So perfect and serene on any water
With any shore as long the fish are biting
And I’m not far from home.
Hands black and Georgia red as I dig
Under maple mulch around the house.
Crush up the fish bones for each bush,
I think it’s ready. I think that now is the time.
Three years treating, turning, feeding
And now, yes now it looks rose ready,
Lily fresh and lemon thyme hungry,
This land is my land, my house,
My readied garden for the summer light and heat,
And I can’t wait to press the first bulbs down,
To build up the sides of John F. Kennedy rose bushes,
Lady Peace and dear Lincoln rose.
Always a spot for bird chili peppers, red serrano,
And jalapeno around the edges.
Sure, there’ll be the weeds, the fact of life, huh?
Dig dig dig, pull pull pull,
Water and preen and wait and watch,
Just like a life, just like a love building,
All gardens rise with care and a soft touch.
A NEW SEASON
The new season walks in out of winter’s shadow,
Brash and windy, commanding change,
Bold flavors and fresh ideas,
March does not speak so much as it roars,
And with this wind we cook our best dishes,
Have the most philosophical conversations,
Argue over when to plant roses and peppers,
Basil and tomatoes, and of course lilies and mint,
Finish off the last of cords of split wood
And set aside the chips for summer smoked meats,
And beloved asks about lavender, hyssop,
Angelica, gardenia (oh please can we plant
Gardenia by the walkway?) and garlic,
I say yes, this year the fence line and creek side
Will be more alive than ever,
A testament to the wealth of soil and rain
That is North Georgia in the Spring,
A living poem of love, hope and desire,
This is what a flowering garden is,
A pastoral waiting to be sung,
A beautiful cuisine reclined and patient,
Waiting, waiting to be served and adored.
SPIRIT OF THE YEAR
Spirit of the year comes about in the second month,
We find shards of the old one scattered in cluttered
Spaces around the house, some stay,
Some are shuttered or swept away,
Some are transformed and given names like
“gift”, “donation”, “save” or “another day”;
But things never wasted, trashed or stored
Come from the pantry, the oven or Frigidaire,
And those are things we cook, we make, we give
And share with each other every day, we live
With Food, Romance, Life and Home.
Gimmee warmth and a bowl of rice or noodles
Any time, gimmee cream and butter
Over diet chemicals and hydrogenated fats,
I want the touch of my love skin to skin,
The touch of my food from earth to table,
You can trash imitations and transformations,
But nothing compares to a hand held,
A house manicured to self-expression
Or a meal well made with a love well formed.
HOW THE NEW YEAR SPEAKS
The water was always thrashing,
Cracking on the rocks
And cliffs below my house,
And every now and then
A grey whale would breach,
Would blow that slow shot
Of the sea straight on up to the sun.
Time holds when this happens.
My Uncle Allan loves the water,
Fishes all day, his boat is perfect,
Pulls perch, crappie and hybrid bass
Up in all weather.
He lives the New Testament;
He breathes peace and hope,
I hang on his words like a child
To rhymes and song.
When the shrimp nets
Are pulled in on the Gulf Shores
And they cut away the turtles,
Birds and cans there is always something
That is left behind, something
Beautiful that grows to breed
And feed and replenish.
Fly fishing sunken islands
At the mouth of Sebastian River
I pause on some casts
To watch a dolphin watching me,
Checking to see when I’ve caught
A blue, redfish or snook,
Circling me the way we circle them
Waiting to be fed just the same.
We both wait and work to be fed.
A sense of something other blows
In on winter leaves, a sense
Of something other always
Rests on blue tipped waves,
And this is just what it is,
This circle, this other, this being within,
This always being as with and in,
And it is good. In all ways, it is good.
A word, a home
An autumn rush of color,
Doors open, windows shine,
The noon sun warms.
A leaf, a wind;
An open hand is not a wave.
An empty kitchen
Is the loneliest room.
Rosemary, pancetta, bow tie pasta,
And the world fills up
With all these things
These foods and phrases
Of life and house.
When we call this room
Our nest our home,
Our place in the world,
It is complete
And the season awakes
To this dear moment
Of You and I
Of times remembered
And times yet to come.
HOT CHOCOLATE AND JORDY
Filling me with love
With hope and expectation
Charming me in every moment.
That’s the way it is when I am with
You my Beloved, warm my life,
My best of all in anything everlasting
Ever-beautiful bride, ever my love,
Like kisses and chocolate you make
These days so cherished and bright
So complete, so much alive.
MEALS OVER MARKET
Waiting for the moment.
Waiting for the last Thursdsay.
Root cellars, garlic,
Potatoes and onions,
A turkey curing in
The darkened pantry
Where we hang
Mystery foods to season
And to age.
That was yesteryear.
Today it’s the market
The international store,
The local grocer
Who can get it all in
And who’ll remember
Your name weeks away.
Ask food. Talk food.
Learn the ways of the earth
Beneath our beautiful Georgia sun.
There are no state or county
Lines, only wide open
Lands of food and love
In this America
In this South
On our own beloved
BACKYARD BY THE BAMBOO
She is every flower, aroma
And scent of this world,
She brings grape clusters,
Fresh shrimp and scallops.
And I wait outside
By the Rose of Sharon
And dwarf Magnolia,
Smiling, happy the man
With his Brinkmann grill,
With alder and cherry wood
Smoking, heating steel,
Sending rich earth flavors
Up and into these sweet
Moments of food and life,
Food and life in this backyard
With my beloved and the light of day.
SANTEE RIVER AT DAWN
Down beneath the parts of the city
There is a path that leads to the sea
That weaves between
High marsh grass and gray concrete,
Where snook and perch together chase
Stone flies, shrimp and sun light.
To me now, in this moment here
This little walkway marks the strand
Separating the designs of our life
And the architecture of this wild life,
This wild life that feeds us all
That makes this world a better place.
Yeah, a small stretch of dry earth
Above the water, where I can hear
The waves, cars, cattle in the fields,
My own lowing footsteps,
And what seems to be the marshes
Breathing, the whispers of this
Challenging estuary demanding
It be seen and heard as it’s own self
And not just a place beneath the city.
ITALIAN FIRE IN THE SOUTHEAST
Tree frogs, crickets and lunar moths,
Citronella incense and jasmine flowers,
Orange and lime peels smoking away
On bright burning coconut shells,
A small flame shoots up,
Snaps and scores the red bell peppers.
In the easement a bobwhite quail calls
And is answered by an owl low in oak branches.
What a night, what a backyard,
What a life this is in early June
When all the cares are for what
To eat and when to sleep
And if all the roses will bloom this year,
And if my love will like this meal
I just burned to a black crisp, burned
Because I was lost in the mists of twilight
Dreaming, dreaming summer away.
Aromatic, mist driven and steamy on the horizon,
A glimpse of empires the color of hazel and garnet,
The wind washes over magnolia leaves,
Winds bring in the smell of crushed honeycombs.
Wispy warm the scent of May in the suburbs
The way it fills with cut grass and spring onions,
How here by a stack of cut poplar it’s clover
That catches the best of the earth at dusk,
This waxing afternoon of a thousand colors
Carries images of hands reaching towards sunset,
Fireflies skitter in the air around my beloved yard,
The dogs bark and run home to their own dinner,
And me, I turn and bid good day to this perfect
Melding of the senses, to this moment in life
Where all things are felt, and to feel is so good,
To feel this beautiful land of ours is so very, very good.
And I move my fingers across a map of the world,
Across gardens and fields, great oceans and mountains,
Through city and country, through gates and doorways,
And then I stopped at this most beautiful place,
And there it was, one Cherokee rose, a live oak rising,
TVA dams and reservoir lakes full with promises
And large mouth bass, thrasher and quail in the meadows.
The brown Chattahoochee and deep Savannah River,
The boom and roar of 1-85, the languid turns of 441
Where azaleas line side yards and creeks from near
Lake Oconee to far Lake Burton and I turn away
To heavy driven roads ruled by possums
And swarms of honey bees, 78, 15, I-95,
And I called it Heaven and I called it home,
This magnificent vineyard of life and love,
This sweet Georgia, old and grown,
And yet new in every way it grows, expands
Into always something more, becoming
Better every day this bright field of the South.
TO PUT THE HEART TO
Green chilies and sweet peppers burning
In the blue gas flame on the stove in winter;
Breathe, breathe, it’s so thick and rich
In here today, and you know, I rushed home.
I rushed home from work today…with fresh herbs,
Papaya and sweet pepper, tangerines and clove…
A dozen oysters and trout caviar.
And there you were as tired as I was.
And for you this is yours.
Sit back and relax, let this be your air,
Your silence, your laugh, and your meal.
Whatever it takes, tonight this life is all on me.
Together in the cold we walk
The starry suburban street.
By a mailbox at dusk we kiss.
We hold hands to keep warm.
As we trade jests and conversation
I watch the fog puff away from your lips,
It floats into the hungry night.
Your apple cheeks glow,
You are beautiful and we kiss.
In our after dinner stroll
We gush like teenagers,
And when we reach our door
I stop, hold you, pull you close,
And again we kiss.
Feels like love every time
I’m close to you,
And it’s good enough for me
In any time of night or day
To say I am yours and you are mine,
That yes always I am here for you.
HEARTH AND HOME SO WARM TOGETHER
Toffee, the Buddha souled Golden Retriever,
She stands and does an easy wave of a walk
With her tail barely swishing back and forth,
She smiles and nuzzles, cajoles for treats,
And in opposite boy-like fever the black Lab Freddie
With open mouth in constant laugh, the trickster,
He sits up on the couch and pretends to be human,
Moves his paws like he’s talking, gesturing towards
The old and irritated house cat Roscoe
And tries to tease him to come a little closer.
And here it is, my wife and I together in the holidays
Like a Mr. and Mrs. St. Francis Of Assisi
Loving all life here equal and the same,
Loving as love is in this greatest of seasons,
Wishing each other and all the sweetest blessings
The blessings of home, trust and freedom,
The blessings of a green world in which to live
Where the Life shared is the life cherished.
So as New Year’s and Old Year’s come together,
I know that Peace lives in many hearts as one
And let’s hope the next year is better than the last
That we learn from all things to love the lesser as the greatest,
And that we learn to live harmless with the world around us
As in this moment by the shimmering tree,
With my Beloved and the animals in this last of 2005.
Turn off the phones and shutter the TV,
Open the doors and let autumn in,
Gather to the table your love and smiles,
Bring bread and fruit and sweetened butter,
Sharpen the knives and polish the silver,
Check and check again the oven light.
Is the bird too brown? Are the juices clear?
Hold high your glasses for family brought near,
These are the days we live to remember,
To give thanks for shelter, food and friends,
To praise this world we all do share,
To stand steady together in each passing year
And look forward to more, and more and more
JORDAN AT NIGHT, WITH LOVE
The golden coin of the Rubaiyat,
It spins and spins throughout
The dawn and day and dusk,
And yet at night it stops and shines,
One light upon the table,
One flower on the mantle…
Cluttered, empty plates,
A smoldering candle smokes and sputters,
And I start humming the dance
From Cavelaria Rusticana,
Swaying, holding, a little waltz
Together in the kitchen at night,
And we shine back into the coin,
Giving definition, giving heart
To the great feast of today, and tomorrow.
SUMMER INTO FALL
I have lived by the great vineyards of the West,
Dined beneath the magnolia and madrone
With master vintners and visiting dilettantes,
Roasted salmon and abalone on coconut hulls
Beneath the cold pacific night on the cold Pacific shore,
Travelled the rolling hills of Mendocino and Sonoma,
Searched for that perfect bottle, the perfect fruit,
The fattest lamb and sweetest tomato,
And all the time these roads and beaches
Led me right back here, here to Georgia
Where the hills rise greener than fescue or jade,
And the seasons fold over into each other
With their own songs of summer and fall,
With their own way of raising healthy crops
To a perfect way of sunny, humid Southern being,
Where we have our own Chateau Elan,
Artisan farmers and organic ranchers,
Here in the South we have a greatness all our own
That reaches out from Northeast Georgia
To the Nantahalas and Carolina seashores,
Down to Savannah and pine kissed Macon,
Yes here in the Southeast where our
Squash and peaches grow stronger and sweeter,
Where the hot lakes and streams are full
With bass, crappie and catfish,
Where the rushing swarms of stone flies
On the Sogue & Altamaha Rivers taunt trout and angler,
This is Georgia in the turn of seasons.
This is Georgia just before the first kick-off,
Right before the stadiums fill and football
Rules the land, this is Georgia the Peach,
The farmed and harvested,
The Southeast alive with food and love,
This is the turning of the seasons.
This is a way of life.
Together in a rocking chair
On a porch at sunrise,
Watching moths and fireflies
Lay down to sleep,
Singing birthday songs
To the God unseen inside
The orange she holds and smells.
And so he watches her,
Watches the colors change,
Her bare feet curling, pushing,
Rocking their lives into the day.
He reaches over to hold
Her hand, tells of a walk
Through lemon groves
And a white sand road,
Where by the sea he traveled,
In awe, in search,
Down shore to a store
Where all the great mysteries
Of kites and wind,
Of ginger and coconuts,
Of mango and gin
Joined together at the whim
Of an old shopkeeper.
This day, charmed and warm,
So together, so yearning,
Sitting and talking, rocking,
And they felt the lure,
They felt the movement
Of voices adored, of home
And late meals….of life and love.
Hours later, still hungry,
Still rocking and holding hands,
Still singing to the God
In oranges and Chinese kites,
Still dreaming of the path to the store
That’s always there…
A man and his love, she and he,
Always waiting on another shore.
Always here, always there,
Always together where
The seas meet the sun.
Rain? Are you touching me now?
I thought I felt rain on my shoulder.
The smell of mushrooms bursting,
Thin-skinned puffballs blowing
Grey smoke in the dry afternoon.
The acrid smell of Comet cleanser and baking soda.
She promises rain, but tastes like perspiration.
I kissed her fingers. Khaki tan and soft.
And it seemed the sun exploded in my eyes.
Turn this over in your heart she says,
And she says there is no price on dusk today.
I tease each lowering cloud with lidded glances
And an Elvis Presley snarl.
Brown needles drop off the sergeant juniper.
Starving bonsai: what is your peace now?
Giving up, I don’t even cut back the English ivy anymore.
And the arid heat is murder here, here on
The banks of the slow Oconee,
Here we all sing “summertime….”
She cat licks my left ear lobe.
Breathes into my translucent Irish skin.
And the vibrations curl, shimmy and shag.
Are you touching me now?
And the cumulus thunder shouts,
Pregnant black clouds roll over and foal.
And suddenly, as parched as I was one second before,
Here I am, drenched and laughing,
Finally, finally my Georgia sky became itself again,
And the summer rainstorms came as promised.
She holds me close, asks if I can smell the grass
Turning green again, if I can feel the branches
Gathering up all the water they can….
And I just say yes, yes I can.
Something I learned from my wonderful Mother:
Thinking and believing are not the same.
Cause when I think I’ll cook and I believe I’ll cook
Occur at different times
Then the oddest of meals falls out of the kitchen.
But when I live with both as one
Then what becomes
Is the greatest of things,
And that is what the good cook lives for,
Greatness on the plate and a smile on the face,
Where love is in the kitchen and everywhere.
CHANGE AND FLUX, OR NOT
This month between the seasons,
This spread of days whose meaning is in the flower
The change and flux,
This wild hunt through
Days and nights of warm cool warm
Where we prosper from the cold months of the sea
And the fresh meats of a final frost,
Where we take on the last of the Indian Rivers orange harvest,
And turn to welcome the first tomatoes and squash blossoms,
The bright green, the mango, and the rose red flowers
Of this new Spring into Summer. Yes, this is April,
The swaying good bye to our long nights,
And a graceful hello to fertile days
Of the South that reach two seasons beyond,
Bountiful seasons that stroll, languid and at peace
Walking into the promised warmth of our ancestral kitchens.
Yeah, April, nothing but good, and always exciting.
IN EVERY DAY, A VALENTINE
Behind the hedges in the backyard
In the kitchen by the stove we kissed.
After work in the grocery store
We lingered by the boxes
Of ripening guava.
Thick tropical scent griped us,
And yes, we kissed.
It seemed the fruit was turning to wine.
I remember every place we’ve been
By the times we touched,
By the love when you pressed your
Hand into mine,
By the meals we shared,
By the idle moments alone.
The months and years fade
When we are together.
It’s too sweet, I know,
But I really don’t care
Life tastes better with this to share:
A simple kiss for you my love.
FROM SMALL BEAUTIES GREAT LOVE EVOLVES
And it seemed dinner would take forever before
Our time together alone on a stroll in the lowering night.
To walk warm beside you through the quiet neighborhood,
Where night winds bristle and crack in the bare trees,
Where long gone finches perch with the owl and cardinal,
Watching the grounds for sign of stray seed and beetle.
These winter nights, these unbelievably bright shining stars
Light our way along the street behind our too fat golden retriever,
And yeah, we feel a little hefty ourselves after this night’s repast,
But what the heck, it’s winter and it’s Georgia,
And we are alive calling out to our small world our joy,
And what could be better than this? A full stomach,
You, me, the dog and the crystal Southern evening
Where all seems right and fine just for you and I.
A CHRISTMAS SPIRIT
Early evening blankets the winter sky
Of fog brightened stars and shadowy trees,
Chairs creak and squeak as we move around,
Sharing sweet coffee, chocolates and ripe strawberries.
An Irish Christmas song dances from the stereo,
It flows and rises, settles into the room
Like a family member returned from long ago.
It’s so peaceful here, after the feast,
Relaxed and easy, where the working world
Slips away and it’s just us, the gentle night,
The fire, the food, feeling each other feeling,
Sharing our memories of today
As well as our histories yet to be.
The airs of this season are divine.
So here we are, vibrant and crisp
In the tide before the New Year
And I couldn’t ask for better,
Nothing less and nothing more
Than that this moment be for all humankind.
A break, a moment,
A few minutes lost,
Risotto bubbling in broth and butter,
A car door slams,
Steel hinges squeak,
Foot falls on the mat across the living room,
Crushed bay and cilantro in my palm,
Water glass trembles,
And there she was, my love
A sudden kiss of iris and clove.
Funny how nervous,
The ceremony of unpacking,
Turning and smelling, pushing and shaking,
Praying the pork loin, the pumpkin and,
The basil are all unblemished,
And most of all,
That the meal is as perfect
As the moment she walked in.
DR. PEPPER AND COUNTRY RIBS
I’ve traveled the long roads of this world and this life,
Walked the woods in seven states and fished the purest waters,
By car, alone, I’ve seen the land from top to bottom
From east to west, and been amazed by
Just how beautiful America can be.
I’ve served royalty and presidents, friends and family,
Dined with peoples of all nations,
Cooked in every imagined situation (and shied away from some),
But nothing’s better than being here, here on the ground of my relations,
Here in the sweet North Georgia airs, with my love and my friends,
Here where life means more than a moment, here where life is everything,
So with a Dr. Pepper toast and swinging rib
Here’s to you and all that follows,
Here’s to the life of taste and flavor
To you, to me, and all you know:
may the great angels and saints of the South look after you all.
GRILLING MY LIFE AWAY
Sometimes a warm summer night is all we need
To see how beloved this Southern life can be,
For me it’s how I cherish, how I care and prepare,
For others it’s just the way the day crawls by,
How we sit and chat and watch the flowers in the breeze,
And any way you slice it there’s no better way to live
Than passing the time on a sun porch in June,
It’s one of those things my Mother taught us all,
To love the life we live and to share this love with everyone.
And if you don’t believe, well, gather round the grill
And start talking about the world,
Pour a tall glass of sweet orange pekoe tea,
And tell me, can you feel the urge to tell history and myth?
Can you feel the desire to hold your loved one?
Can you tell her she is beautiful in the glow
Of a hickory smoke fire at sunset?
OPEN AFTER ALL
There is no one flag,
Cuisine or Oz wizard
To show the heart
And mind within,
But there is this you
To whom I open
Like morning glories to the sun.
I will always be there,
At the end of the day,
And throughout the night:
If not beside you
Within you as thought,
Sunday, feasting on the powers of Georgia barbecue,
Reveling in the glory of a lakeside fish fry,
Small talk, a little bit of Hegel, touch of Grizzard,
Buckets of sweet tea, a bushel of lemons,
Bit of a fight over the better voice,
Haggard or Yoakum, nobody won.
They do sound great on a Sunday afternoon
With a plate of striped bass and yellow perch,
Sliced pork shoulder and crisp cole slaw.
Haggard reminds me of onion hush puppies,
And Yoakum, he’s like a hot sauce and bbq.
My mother finally tells the story about
My grandfather during the Great Depression.
He was arrested jumping the Southern Pacific train
Coming into Tucker, when it slowed down
He tossed sacks of corn and flour
In the woods outside Cofer Brothers lumber yard.
New to me, and I loved it,
The air of a just crime, my Papaw a renegade.
I remember his kindness and his jokes,
The tipped Fedora and Lucky Strike cigarettes,
Something of a rascal, a colorful guy,
He taught me how to drink coffee.
I still think about him when I pour in the milk.
He taught me that all food was good.
Odd, no matter how cool, or how wayward
I’ve ever been I’ve never been so brave,
Or so desperate as to jump a train
And steal food for my family.
And the barbecue tastes even better now,
I have something more to relish,
Something more about my forefathers
To season this hungry history with,
Something more to be thankful for
In this land of life and promise.
IT WAS COLD BEFORE YOU
Looking up into what was October
when the frosted winds came,
and November stepped across the river.
Inside, the house grew frigid
in it’s emptiness.
Then there you were,
as if with me for all time,
beside me here in the living room,
open arms wide in the quilted easy chair,
yes, there you were,
shining like a forever summer.
My warm love,
my smile in darkness.
Today I was up early,
rubbing the Laughing Buddha
on his lucky little belly,
thinking and thankful,
I know no matter what
there are those few things
that are so good, so giving,
even in times that say
compassion is a joke,
and peace of heart is a myth,
and I think, yeah,
sometimes the love stories
must be lived,
like the one that says that I am
glad I’m living this life of mine.
A CHROME KEY
Looking at the lone house key on the mantle,
touching to maybe feel her warmth in the metal,
and I stand there by the heater,
holding this memento of her in my home,
of how she would fumble, push it into the lock
and open the door to my house and life.
Entering the calm, burgundy living room,
and she calls out to the cat,
“Roast Beef! come out come out you dirty cat!”
And she would start laughing at how she
could always surprise the not so regal cat of the house.
Or perhaps sneaking in, tip toe up behind me
as I worked at my desk, at my words and recipes.
Slowly, slinking, and then a shout “Heeeyyy!!”
and always I would jump,
and always I would turn and smile,
happy in the moments she made each hello
a gift of fascination, an event of joy.
And the key has no holder now, no soft hand,
no warm pockets to keep it company,
just the mantle, a collection of Bataille,
a black horse from my childhood and a string
of golden, shimmery, decorative stars.
Squeeze, lift it to the light, peek through
the ring hole at a photograph of her.
Tell myself, it’s ok, don’t worry, soon, soon,
thirty days away before she prances
into this dark study again,
thirty days away before the sun will shine
again in my winter without her,
and oddly, religiously, I set the key right
back where she left it, there above the heater,
next to a candle and a racing plastic stallion,
here in this house where there is so much more
to the world when she is in it.
window shakes as the front door slams,
covers pull up against the coming light,
then a sweet voice flows across the dust…
and in your little room you squint and shake,
see a world alive with breath and whispers,
there’s a woman there you know you love…
yeah, she’s the spice of life.
Like a tickle in your ear:
And she says:
No lucky charm bounces on my chest,
no crucifix, no ankh or star,
just a flash of red, a hearts fire contained
And the snow left the sky for a while,
hung around the yard looking all cool and white,
with ripples and dimples and ridges and clumps,
so perfect seeming at dawn and at dusk,
just like the bright green lawns of summer.
Today I am thankful to be alive,
to feel the cold, to taste the snow,
to look beside me and see you there.