—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento
What does it mean that I love my own cooking?
Is that self-love; is it bad?
Can I be objective about my own cooking;
do I more easily digest that which I make?
As a girl, I cooked dinner for our family
seven nights a week;
Mom enforced serving the same meals weekly,
prepared by following her verbal instructions,
no cookbooks needed.
That’s all your father will eat, she maintained.
Oscar Meyer hot dogs, sauerkraut,
tuna fish and peas, hamburgers, meatloaf
fried chicken, pot pies, beef stew—
then start the list again.
Memorizing menus and directions,
I standardized results fairly well by high school.
My sister always complained, though,
There’s nothing to eat in this house!
Finally leaving home,
earning little income for grocery shopping,
it took me years to set up a kitchen, cook for myself.
Once I did, I experimented,
finding classic cookbooks, recipe websites.
Feeding myself when living alone,
my home cooking got better and better;
now I can pound out a rib roast, turkey dinner,
pizza, or layer cake from scratch.
Before she died (too young), my sister
told me one day that the only thing she could eat
was my homemade carrot cake.
Whiz in the kitchen, but no one to eat it;
insufficient employment, how to afford grocery shopping!
Even on a tight budget, I
make a mean baked sweet potato
corn muffin, bean chowder, fruit salad;
home cooking for one still satisfies—
though at meals, I read
to dull the sadness of eating alone.
WHAT I DREAMED
I dreamed that I opened my mind
and you walked in,
held out your arms, enfolded me,
opened your lips and kissed me
I dreamed that you loved me
for years without hope
I’d chosen another life
than that which, you believed,
was our destiny together
respecting my choice, biding your time,
or perhaps without hope,
you made another life
yet both our lives crumbled
water of life cascaded through us
swept us together
we began to be part
of each other,
though I still didn’t know you
you still lived without hope
or perhaps bided your time
until one day, or so went my dream,
you entered my heart through my mind,
which had deemed you unapproachable,
shielding myself from hurt, or from love
you entered my life
through my heart and my dream
I opened my life, heart, mind, arms to you
in my dream, you walked right in
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
The assessor lives atop his hill-with-a-view.
Our friend's goat, displaced by his road easement,
forages the lower, weedy slopes.
This season's bad for taxes.
The homeless camp behind Bonanza closed down.
A bulldozer pushed tents and lawn-chairs
into dirt-piles with uprooted manzanita.
That parcel has been leveled for another mall.
I drive my little car east up Main.
Window-paint angels and holly wreaths
cover For Lease signs on all the vacant shops.
Carols on the radio, "In the bleak midwinter..."
People with ample homes of their own
gather in other people's homes to eat and drink,
and discuss what to do about
the town's food bank and soup kitchen.
Neon eyes catch my headlights,
low to the ground.
I park my car, walk up my host's front steps.
A rat high-wires from porch-light to the dark
that draws a shadow beyond
tonight's holiday cheer.
Chittering above my head, it balances
by its long tail and resumes its night.
FROM KEW BRIDGE, 1864
A walk foreshortened by the Thames
that once would flow through field and moor—
now stitched and patched with dirty hems,
a city's out-skirts of the poor.
You used to walk here, years ago
when May put on her blossom-show.
But Progress is a subtle sweep
that changes worlds while we're asleep.
THE INEVITABLE CHRISTMAS ORANGES
—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks
Just after the Visitation
School Christmas pageant
(I usually had to play
Santa Claus, typecast
By physique and beard
Even in grade school),
We’d line up for our
Holiday treat, inevitably
A bag of oldish,
But not yet fuzzy oranges
(Would a Hershey Bar
Now and then have ruined
Father Crowley would give us
His blessing and we’d head
Home for vacation.
Inevitably, it would be
Sleeting in Central Illinois
That time of year, and we’d
Take the perilous shortcut
Across the Irving School
Playground. Just as
Inevitably, the public school
Kids would take our bags
Of oranges away from us.
Every January, the nuns
Would ask how our families
Enjoyed the treat, and every
Year we’d explain. “Ah, may
The fruits have had a strong
Laxative effect upon them,”
The nuns would always say.
What good can come of winter? Only ice
and snow on doorsteps—wonderland, indeed!
No holly will she hang; she won't think twice
of Christmas cheer. Poinsettias are a weed.
But what's this on her doormat, wrapped in brown
plain paper, tied with twine? A packaged frown.
Mysterious as what lies under snow:
three bulbs to blossom, if allowed to grow.