from “Red, Requiem”

Ginger

There is always
a door. & a door can
either be open
or shut.

Feathers, flowers,
sticks &
stones. You can
grab my skin but
you’ll never get
my bones.

Small things move
fast. I’m faster
than the fastest
fly & quicker
than a bug. Now
you see me, now
you don’t.

Tree on hill? Check! &
so many ravens— a
conspiracy, a constable,
an unkindness of.

A feather
for my collection. Bare
tree, bare-
foot. Feathers &
flowers & telephone lines
line the forest, cut through
the trees for the forest.

In the forest the wolves
were small & there was
small music & I danced
with the girl
in the forest & I wore
red & she wore white
or black & the shape
her mouth made when
she said mouth made me
want to kiss her, her
mouth, & we lied we lie
down, down, lie still.

& still
not, my sister, skin
& bones, shut
the door, hang
up the phone.

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it should really have the decency to snow

Miserable raw & rainy Sunday demands comfort dinner.  I’ve decided to work my way through Green Aisle Grocery’s selection of dried heirloom beans & lentils, so today picked up a bag of French Green lentils (& a quart of organic local chocolate milk for dessert, in part because chocolate milk, in part because the heavy glass bottle is pleasing).

Lentil-Mushroom Soup:

Rinse off an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms to remove grit, then put in a glass or ceramic bowl (a glass Pyrex measuring cup is ideal).  Cover with 2-3 cups boiling water, stir, cover, & let soak for 20-30 minutes.  While the mushrooms are steeping, heat some olive oil in a big soup pot or dutch oven, then saute 2-3 chopped onions, salting lightly.  When the onions are translucent, add a cup or two of chopped carrots; then 2 cups of sliced mushrooms (cremini or baby bella are nice; white are fine, too).  Salt, fresh ground black pepper, 2 dried bay leaves, a tablespoon of dried thyme leaves, crushed in your hands before you throw them in the pot.  Stir, stir, stir.  Scoop the dried mushrooms (now squishy & soft) out of their soaking liquid (save this), chop them up, & throw them in the pot.  Add 1 1/2 cups dried lentils (rinsed & sorted), stir, stir.  Add the soaking liquid from the dried porcini, pouring slowly so any grit or sediment doesn’t get into the pot.  Add a cup or two of red wine, enough water to cover everything by 2 inches, bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.  Taste.  Adjust seasonings.  During the last 20-30 minutes, add a few chopped red potatoes, skin on, & simmer until they soften slightly & lose their sharp edges.  The broth created from the red wine & mushroom liquid is earthy & wintery goodness, & will want bread for soaking.

Potato Bread:

As with all breads, this is going to go a lot easier with a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, which is one of the things I would rescue from the house in event of fire, which is unfortunate because it is very heavy.

Potato bread sounds like it’s going to be dense & heavy, but something amazing happens between the potato starch & the yeast, & it’s light & chewy & makes amazing toast.

Chop up 1 1/3 c. red potatoes, leaving the skins on, & boil until soft.  Let cool a bit in their cooking water until warm enough to reach in, scoop them out & into the mixer’s bowl, add a tablespoon of salt, & 4 c. bread flour, & 1 1/2 tablespoons of gluten (you can get this at most markets anymore).  Mix with the beater attachment to mash the potatoes into the flour, then (mixer running on low) add 1 packet (or 1 tablespoon) yeast, then 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt.  Slowly add 1 1/3 c. of the lukewarm cooking water from the potatoes (too cool will not activate the yeast beasties, but too hot will kill them).  Add another 1/2 cup of bread flour.  When this shaggy mess starts to look like dough, switch to the dough hook on lowest setting, adding flour as you need (you may need to ad another cup or two).  Let the dough hook do it’s thing for about 10 minutes, then tip the blob of dough onto a floured workspace & knead by hand for another two minutes.  While you’re doing this, soak the mixing bowl in hot soapy water.  When you’re finished kneading, wash out the mixing bowl, butter the dough ball (easiest way to do this is to take a lump of butter btwn your palms & rub together so your hands are lightly coated, then smear all over the dough), put it in the mixing bowl, cover with a towel, & let it rise for an hour or so some place warm, or overnight someplace not-so-warm.  When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, knead for a minute then form into whatever shape you like (another ball, or more of a log-loaf).  Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal, put the dough on top & cover with a towel.  Preheat over to 450 (I let the second-rise take place on top of the stove, to give it a little heat oomph).  When the dough is puffed up & almost doubled in size, remove towel & pop it in the over for 20 minutes.  Lower heat to 375 & cook for another 15 minutes.  Check bread for done-ness by lifting it off the baking sheet (use a towel.  it’s hot) & knocking on the bottom; when it’s done, it will sound hollow.  Let cool a bit, slice, serve with soup, make into toast, eat for dessert with chocolate milk.

from “Red, Requiem”

Robin

I’m a kid, I’m a
kid, I’m a little
kid.  & I play & I
play in my little
way.  Pat-a-cake, pat-a-
cake.  I see a saw.  Slide
the hide.  Go round
the merry.  Yum,
candy! The balloon
I lost on my birthday— is this
it?  I want to play
with a big
& cuddly thing.

Path of needles, or path
of pins?  I’d have to be very
careful with this needle & not
run anymore.  I could run
really fast with a boot like
that.  Or at least
pretend to.  Wild games
are best, running &
jumping & riding
riding, riding.

I ride the shopping
cart through the woods or
down the wooden
stairs or rocks, I rock
the cart & sing.  Buy me now
at discount prices! Topple
in dust & dirty
dirty dirt.

If wolves are like
dogs, then.  A cloud howling
to the moon, a wolf
singing, a singing
wolf.  A young dead
bird.  Not me.  Not
me.

Dig in the dirt in the deep
dark woods.  Dirty nails, grave-
scratching headstones & headless
angel, hands out, hello.  We put
people in the ground &
flowers.  Dear
Lord, make heaven be
a fun place.  Amen.

Play surprise, the best wild
game:  ride.  Run & jump
on back & ride, how
soft his ears, what high
swing & belly
tickle.  Fists full
of fur & we all fall.

Fall.  Footing, slipped
slipped my hood right
off, right off my
head.  My head slipped
right off.  Room full of birthday
cake & balloons, window full
of moon.  A baby’s bed, a bloody
bed, an empty
grave, open.

The Path & Reds, Riding

After I read some of my fairy tale series in progress at Chapter & Verse recently, Greg Bem was telling me about a computer video game called The Path, which is based somewhat on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.

Red Sisters

In the game, you choose to control one of six sisters, each a sort of incarnation of Red Riding Hood, & are then sent to visit her ubiquitous sick grandmother.  You can choose whether to stay on the path (which leads straight to grandmother’s house, ending the game rather quickly), or to wander into the surrounding woods, where there are strange & spooky & beautiful things to see, & wolves lying in wait.

It’s the going off the path where the good stuff happens in the game.  Although this isn’t really a game– if anything, it’s an un-game.  You do not shoot things or defeat monsters or solve puzzles.  You wander about in a lovely, painterly setting & it’s all very dreamy.  But you can read about that here or here.  

The point is, after losing several nights to poking around the forest as different Reds & seeking out each Red’s wolf (for each, manifested differently, & only for one as a literal wolf), I started poking around my fairy tale anthologies, & began sketching out a new poem series: one after each of the Red sisters, but also informed by fairy tales & folklore tropes & convention, as is the rest of my larger manuscript in progress.  I’ll post as they take shape, starting today.

Immaculate Conception Soup

Home today with the twins because the tiny neighborhood parochial school they attend (because our public school is scary & we are too broke for fancy private school) was closed for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It was cold but sunshiney, so after lunch at our favorite neighborhood cafe, we walked up East Passyunk Avenue & stopped in the new boutique foodery, Green Aisle Grocery.  One bag dried heirloom cannellini beans, one jar organic bay leaves, one lemon, & two bunches of local kale = my heathen family’s Feast Day dinner for about $14, with dried beans & bay leaf to spare.

Soaking dried beans overnight is ideal, but I rarely plan that far ahead– in which case, measure out 2c of beans, sort for broken bits & rocks, rinse, put in a big pot with enough water to cover by several inches, & bring to a boil.  Boil for 3-4 minutes, then cover, remove from heat, & let them sit for at least an hour.  The longer the better.

[You can use canned beans, of course, & no one will think less of you for it, but dried beans, besides being far cheaper, better maintain their integrity; that is, they are less likely to turn to mush.]

Chop up 2 or 3 onions & 5 or 6 cloves of garlic (you can never have too much of either, especially during cold/flu season).  Wash the kale & cut into ribbons.  If the spines are extra thick/tough, strip the leaves away from the tough portion.

Heat 1/4 c or so of olive oil in a large pot (I have an enormous cast iron dutch oven which is home to all soups) over medium-high heat.  Add the onions & salt them a bit.  Sweat the onions until they become translucent, then add the garlic, a couple of bay leaves, cracked black pepper, some red pepper flakes.  Before the garlic turns brown, add the kale, & stir & toss until the leaves are shiny & wilted.  Salt a little bit more.  It’s best to salt as you gone, rather all in one plop.

Drain beans (the soaking water only absorbs a trace of vitamins, but lots of the coating on the beans that can give stomach trouble, so discard), rinse, & add them to the pot.  Stir, stir, stir, then add 8 or so cups of water (I add hot water from the electric kettle), enough so everything is covered by about an inch.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, semi-covered.  Add the juice from a lemon.  This is where I also usually add the rind from a wedge of Asiago or somesuch hard cheese, which I save in the freezer for soup-making — it gives the soup a little body, a little backbone, which is nice if you don’t tend toward meat stocks.

Let it simmer for a few hours until the beans are soft & creamy.  Add water as it simmers, to keep everything covered by about an inch.  Adjust the seasoning as you go — more salt, more pepper flakes, a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon.  Discard cheese rind & bay leaves.  Serve with brown bread.

It is not an all-white meal (as recommended for this feast day) but the white beans are full of grace, indeed.

Chaptered, Versed

A few weeks ago, I read at the Chapter & Verse reading series, hosted by Ryan Eckes & Stan Mir at Chapterhouse Cafe in Philadelphia.  I read with Ethan Fugate, who is an old friend, & Hailey Higdon, who is a new friend, both of whom are pretty fantastic.

After reading my creepy fairytale poems, Greg Bem introduced himself to me & began a conversation which later began another poem-series in my creepy fairytale arena.  More on that later.  He was also kind enough to tape the reading, which you can stream or download in pieces here.