Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Reminiscence, Recipes, and Bacon

For those of you who have housefuls of people, or who are going away for the holidays, a bonus Tuesday blog post for you.

Remember, everyone you see, everything you overhear, even the feel of prosecco bubbles up your nose can be a poem trigger.

Don’t walk around with your notebook – your family may already think you’re an odd duck – just try and remember the high points so you can include them in your poems later.

Have I written about the three Sumo Wrestlers from last week? No, but I could surely write a food poem and include the taste of turkey gravy on rice. Which could then become what they served in the Junior High cafeteria on Wednesdays. Where my mom used to pick me up on her motorcycle, and I was the first girl allowed to take drafting because I couldn’t sew.

See how it works? It’s literal. It’s narrative. But it isn’t written yet. Except it was! Taking drafting turned into:

What We Don’t Know About Jonah

Each morning Jonah packs
templates and paints in thoughtful
order in the bed of his grandfather’s
old truck, a daily memory of tough
but loving—

He drives at slow pace through
neighborhoods where curbs were
bruised by swollen waters and roughened
sticks, house numbers no longer visible,
not even in the broadest brush of sun.

For ten, fifteen, maybe twenty dollars he will
paint a numbered masterpiece on the naked
curb for residents who forget his name
the second they close the door, turning back
to lovers or laundry, whatever people
do in mid-day when they’re at home.

Jonah is an excellent draftsman.
Born to be outdoors, he had learned
a skill to serve him well, turning
in the 4x6 cards filled with alphabets
and numbers each Friday at school.
He’d practiced his lettering week
after week, the concentration blocking
out his parents shouting in the kitchen,
his little sister playing dolls by his feet
to keep her from toddling into the war zone.

Nothing as satisfying as a daily routine:
flip through the mail, unload pockets
of crumpled bills and order them
in the same careful way he packs
his paints, grab a $20, put his brushes
to soak, and head on down to Wiley’s place,
a beer always waiting, a woman
always curious and loving his paint
splattered clothes, a real artist to make
her feel beautiful after an ordinary day,
to go outside with her, watch the neighbor’s
lights coming on in the windows.

Previously published in Pushing out the Boat

Enjoy. Observe. Be safe. I hope that you, your families and friends, and all your houses and pets are safe during these horrible fires.

I hope you don’t have Brussels sprouts, and whatever green vegetable you do have has bacon in it. I hope your sweet potatoes have praline on top, and your stuffing has sausage. And I hope if you volunteered to bring cranberry sauce, you use the delicious no-cook recipe below.

I live close to the neighborhood that starts decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. I thank God I don’t live in that neighborhood. If you do, enjoy. I’m going to eat my absolute favorite leftover meal in the world…a turkey sandwich on egg bread, with mayonnaise, lettuce, and a pinch of salt. And then I’m taking a nap!!

      Cranberry and Dried-Cherry Relish
      Bon Appetit November, 2001

So good – and no cooking required.  Prepare the relish at least a day ahead, and add more cardamom before serving if you’d like a stronger flavor.

Makes 2 Cups

1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
1 C dried tart cherries (about 5 ounces)
1 C (packed) golden brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Mix all ingredients in large bowl.  Place half of mixture in processor.  Using on/off turns, process until coarsely chopped.  Transfer to medium bowl.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Chill at least 1 day and up to 2 days, stirring occasionally (I put this in a glass mason jar and just turned it over a couple of times a day)

Happy Thanksgiving. Talk again in a couple of weeks. xo

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

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