Tag Archives: poetry

soil, by Irene Mathieu


the way you say soil
sounds like soul, as in

after we walked through the woods
my feet were covered in soul

when it rains
the soul turns to mud

the soul is made of decomposed
plant and animal matter;

edaphology is the study of the soul’s
influence on living things

while pedology is the study of how
soul is formed, its particular granularity.

you are rooted in a certain red patch
of soul that bled you and your

hundred cousins to life, a slow
warm river you call home.

maybe there is soul under everything,
even when we strike rock first.

the way you say soil you make
a poem out of every speck of dirt.


From orogeny by Irene Mathieu
a birthday gift to myself.

april pledge

We just got back from our spring break trip, and while I was gone I realized how much I miss writing. We were always on the go, and I found myself wanting to squeeze in more than an instagram post allows. But IG is quick, and becomes an easy excuse for writing and posting. So I’ve decided to write something, even if it’s just a line or two, each day in April. I realize that it’s April Fool’s Day, so you can believe me if you want to or not. But I will.

Four years ago I had a flight where I suffered a full blown panic attack. I was able to hide it pretty well, but it took every coping mechanism I could find to get through it. I loved everything about flying before that event, and I hate almost everything about it post-panic. I’m excited for the destination, but I block out everything around the act of flying as much as possible. Each new flight that I get under my belt helps a little bit more. I employ new tactics, and build off of previous ones. I can do it without medication or alcohol or other forms of altered states, although I’ve considered them. It’s the worst just after takeoff, the bumpiness of rising through the weather. It heightens with every offhand comment from the pilot about the clouds ahead. If the flight attendants are instructed to take a seat, I nearly lose it.

My body seems to know how long a flight will last, because I’m tense until the middle, and then I start to relax. Two-thirds of the way through I can handle the bumps and the ding of the seatbelt sign turning on and off again without sweaty palms or deep breathing exercises. As soon as I feel the plane descending even 20-30 minutes out, I’m golden. My brain knows that landing is one of the riskiest times during a flight, but it’s not my brain running the show. I’m relaxed because I’ve conquered it again. I’m one step closer to where I want to be. I’m one step further away from where I thought I’d lost control and might never regain it.

I don’t fear crashing, or death even. I fear fear itself. I don’t know what launched me from nonchalance to paranoia, except that it might have been a combination of a really turbulent flight just after a really turbulent season of grief, separated half a plane’s length from the rest of my family, and alone in my panic. I thought I might not fly again.

Last year I read a poem called Rough Air by Maggie Smith, by accident. I started it and then couldn’t stop, although I kept telling myself to. I think of it now and then, even when I don’t have a flight ahead of me. I almost read it again, a few days before we left on this latest trip, but instead I just warily eyed the book on my dresser.

But it’s a few months before my next flight, barring a catastrophe of some sort, or a surprise of some sort, and so I’m reading it again tonight. Because it is beautiful and painful and so perfectly describes those two hours in sky, somewhere between losing my niece and landing, finally, in Atlanta.

Rough Air by Maggie Smith

When the pilot calls it rough air,
I think of a cat’s tongue
as if the air itself were textured,
as if we could feel its sandpaper
licking our skin. I swallow
my ears open, and the silence
that is not silence at all fills them.
What I thought were graves
from this height are houses
in neat white rows. In the absence
of faith I resort to magical
thinking. I pray to my children,
which is to say I conjure them,
imagine holding them until
I can feel them in my arms.
Like a sign that dings on, lit:
Mother. Though motherhood
never kept anyone safe.
Just a week ago, an opera singer
held her baby on her lap
as a mountain chewed their plane
to bits. How is that possible?
Didn’t the mountain see the baby?
Motherhood never kept anyone
safe, though it’s no fault of mothers.
There is no such thing as safety –
only survival and the absence
of survival: a plane, a mountain,
a cockpit door that cannot
be opened. I am galloping inside
the cold white of this cloud,
no sound of hooves.
I have chewed my cheeks
bloody. I am trying so hard
to trust lift and thrust,
holding a note my daughter
wrote to her stuffed cheetah:
Hi Spots we will play Legos after school.
In other words, I love you,
I will come back. A child
is not a talisman. Neither am I,
I’m afraid. I am in the sky,
but do not pray to me.
I have no power here.

on moments of time: (story)time: eat this poem by nicole gulotta


“As for food, simple cooking dominates most days, like jam spooned into thick yogurt, a bowl of popcorn left on the coffee table, or beans smashed on bread. None of it is particularly noteworthy. Leftovers are placed in glass containers for tomorrow’s lunch, and scraps are scraped into the trash bin. Whole plums, celery stalks, and bunches of carrots in the bottom of the crisper go soft before we can use them. The remains of our meals are discarded like poem fragments we put into a file to look at when we’re in need of inspiration.

A poem stops time, keeping a moment suspended until we’re ready to revisit it. A good meal stops us too, however briefly, reminding us to savor every bite.” – Nicole Gulotta, Eat This Poem.

I’ve had this book in my hands for a month now, but I wanted to read through it all first, and cook from it as well, before I shared it with you. The month has been very busy, but I’ve pulled this book into my lap for five and ten minute stretches here and there, and we’ve been cooking from it all month. To be completely honest, it wasn’t the first time I’ve read or cooked with Nicole. Her blog of the same name is a staple in my life, and I consult her Literary City Guides first before planning any trip. I even got to test out some of the recipes in this book last year as Nicole was writing and editing her manuscript. I had to dig a little to find the photos I took during that time, and finally found this one.


Our family tested four of Nicole’s recipes, and the Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies could be reason alone to purchase this cookbook. But don’t let it be.

The only recipe I made for just me was a simple Caesar salad with paprika croutons. I saw this photo and I can remember all the details of that Saturday afternoon. I was home from yoga, and the sun was streaming in the back window of the kitchen as it likes to do on the weekends. Everyone else was eating at the table while I prepped the ingredients; they were scattered again when I finished. I pulled the latest issue of Dwell out of the mail pile, and filled a water spotted glass two-thirds high before sitting down to eat. I ate the whole bowl, and helped myself to seconds. The afternoon stretched ahead of me, glass-spotted, sun-spotted. I packed the leftovers into glass containers for tomorrow’s lunch, and ate the scraps, folded down the corner of the magazine page, and set it aside to finish later.


Pairing Nicole’s own rich food stories and kitchen experiments with poetry is the magic here. One night I had beets, and I started in an ordinary place – the index, scrolling my finger though the b’s to find inspiration. But another night I first opened and began to read Billy Collins’ writing about a pear, and dinner inspiration started there. Food is temporary, fleeting. A few moments on our counter, and then spent – eaten, stored, discarded. It meets us where we need it, and can be nothing more than that. Which makes the memory of a salad on a Saturday that much more surprising – and comforting. What else did I do that day? I’m not really sure, but I can still remember standing there at the counter, scraping croutons off the baking sheet, and eating scraps as I went.



By Louise Gluck

From The Triumph of Achilles (1980)

It is a good thing,
in the marketplace
the old woman trying to decide
among the lettuces,
impartial, weighing the heads,
the outer leaves, even
sniffing them to catch
a scent of earth
of which, on one head,
some trace remains—not
the substance but
the residue—so
she prefers it to
the other, more
estranged heads, it
being freshest: nodding briskly at the vendor’s wife,
she makes this preference known,
an old woman, yet
vigorous in judgment.

The circle of the world—
in its midst, a dog
sits at the edge of the fountain.
The children playing there,
coming and going from the village,
pause to greet him, the impulsive
loving interest in play,
in the little village of sticks
adorned with blue fragments of pottery;
they squat beside the dog
who stretches in the hot dust:
arrows of sunlight
dance around him.
Now, in the field beyond,
some great event is ending.
In twos and threes, boldly
swinging their shirts,
the athletes stroll away, scattering
red and blue, blue and dazzling purple
over the plain ground,
over the trivial surface.

Lord, who gave me
my solitude, I watch
the sun descending:
in the marketplace
the stalls empty, the remaining children
bicker at the fountain—
But even at night, when it can’t be seen,
the flame of the sun
still heats the pavements.
That’s why, on earth,
so much life’s sprung up,
because the sun maintains
steady warmth at its periphery.
Does this suggest your meaning:
that the game resumes,
in the dust beneath
the infant god of the fountain;
there is nothing fixed,
there is no assurance of death—

I take my basket to the brazen market,
to the gathering place.
I ask you, how much beauty
can a person bear? It is
heavier than ugliness, even the burden
of emptiness is nothing beside it.
Crates of eggs, papaya, sacks of yellow lemons—
I am not a strong woman. It isn’t easy
to want so much, to walk
with such a heavy basket, either
bent reed, or willow.


Buy a copy of Eat This Poem for yourself, but then maybe for your mother next week, or the teachers who share poetry with you and your children, or the newlyweds just filling a first kitchen, or any others who feed your soul.

[Gift pairs well with the aforementioned cookies.]