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Potica





Sitting in Colorado
I think of my parents sitting
in Illinois,
how tonight in different
kitchens together we savor
the Slovenian sweet bread
of my father’s childhood,
the sweet bread
his mother would make—
savor not just the taste
but the memory of the taste,
the paper thin crust,
the ground walnuts,
the honey.
Savor not just the loaf
but the memory of the hands
that once made the loaf,
the happiness as we ate it,
the communion in the joy.
Tonight, I break the bread
into tiny pieces, eat it slow,
imagine us at the same
loving table now
and years and years ago.
We are alone, not alone.
The bread tastes
like family, like home.



If you are unfamiliar with this Eastern European nutroll delicacy (pronounced puh-TEET-suh),  you can read more about it here.

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            Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!


Because I can’t serve you
breakfast in bed, I’ll
serve you a poem,
and knowing how
you like cake for breakfast,
it will be a sweet poem,
with penuche frosting
swirled atop every line.
And because it is a poem,
we can imagine
that the mug with pictures
of your granddaughter
(due to arrive on Monday)
has already arrived
and that it is filled with
Café Vienna, and laced,
why not, with whiskey,
because, hey, it’s a poem,
and you won’t really
get drunk, just happily
tipsy on all the love
served between the lines,
the kind of love that makes you
lean back into the pillows
and close your eyes
and smile like you have
life’s best secret,
the kind of love that makes you
leap out of bed and laugh,
buoyed by joy, a bit of penuche,
creamy and sweet,
still singing on your tongue.

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And there you were not
on the shelf with your shiny red skin,
and there you were not in the pan
in thin pink rings filling the air,
and there you were not
in the sauce, that warm underlayer
that grounds the bright tomato—
all night I missed you.
All night, the red wine kept asking,
Where is it? Where is it?
All night, I thought of how
what is missing is sometimes
most here.

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For hours we focus
on forming what is sweet—
shaping soft dough
with our hands, with a press,
with a rolling pin. And the house
smells of vanilla and cinnamon.
And happy hours disappear into laughter
and the hands find joy
in making something good.

I think of all the other hands
in kitchens across the world—
hands working together
to serve others—
I imagine their fingerprints
right here in this dough.
I imagine us feeding each other.

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Praise the pumpkin

with its orange flesh—

how it softens

and sweetens as it cooks.

Praise the way it lends

its rich and earthy density

to pie and bread, curry and soup.

The body responds

with a something akin to joy—

tethered by humble pleasure

to exactly this moment,

as if a flavor could help us

know god—

as if a taste could help us

become who we are.

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Hankering

Today again I thank the arugula

for the way it teaches me

that sharpness, too, is what

draws us in, that we come

not just to forgive

but to crave what is bitter,

what bites us back.

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Ravenous

Perhaps I was already full

when Danny offered me

a sweet potato pancake

for breakfast, but there

he was with a bowl

of homemade batter

and a cast iron frying pan

hot on the stove, and so

I did what I longed to do,

I said yes, yes to feeding

a hunger that has little

to do with food—

the hunger for someone else

to offer you something

they’ve made, the joy of sharing

a meal together, the honor

of being served. The fact

that the pancake was delicious—

both sweet and hot—

was a bonus. The salsa

he handed me fiery—

fantastic as long friendship,

fierce as gratitude, as love.

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After cutting open hundreds, thousands

of avocados, I marvel as my friend Kyra

cuts off the top. Slices it right off.

And I stare at her, at the knife, at the tip

of the avocado listing on the cutting board.

How easily she scoops out the creamy green flesh.

How simply she cuts more rounds around the pit.

 

All these years, I’ve sliced avocados lengthwise.

It’s as if I’ve just learned a new word for yes.

As if the sun itself just rose right here in the kitchen.

It takes so little to open us, to help us

see everything new. Even that prayer I pray

the same way. These hands. This common fruit.

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You are not a passive observer in the cosmos. The entire universe is expressing itself through you at this very minute.

—Deepak Chopra

 

 

Even as she made the cauliflower soup,

she was a deep space explorer.

No one else in the room seemed to notice

 

she was floating. No one noticed

how gravity had no hold on her.

No, they only saw she was chopping onions,

 

noticed how the act made her cry. How was it

did they not hear her laughter, astonished

as she was by her own weightlessness,

 

by the way she could move in any direction?

Perhaps the novelty explains why

she forgot to turn off the stove,

 

untethered as she was to anything.

It’s a miracle she sat at the dinner table at all,

what, with the awareness that she was surrounded

 

by planets, spiral galaxies, black holes, moons. Yes,

miracle, she thought as she tasted the soup,

and noticed deep space not just around,

 

but inside her: supernovae, constellations,

interstellar dust,

the glorious, immeasurable dark.

 

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Shabbat

for Peter and Lisa

 

 

We covered our eyes with our hands

and repeated the sacred words that Peter said,

blessing the pomegranate juice, blessing

 

the challah bread. And when we were done

with the prayer, we removed our hands

from our eyes and the candlelit world

 

was surprisingly bright. Such a simple faith,

kindness. The willingness to invite another in,

to make them bread, to offer them soup,

 

to say to the other, Here. Feast. Rest. To share

ancient stories and offer new wisdom.

To pass the braided bread, hand to hand,

 

and eat it together. To listen to each other

until the candles had burned through all their wax.

To continue to listen after the light goes out.

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