Posts Tagged ‘sweetness’

It’s science, of course,
how the sugars in beets
will caramelize when heated,
a process that includes conversion,
condensation, dehydration,
collisions, and the formation
of thousands of volatile compounds.
And though it’s not simple,
and though this process of sweetening
is not fully understood,
sweetening happens. Every time.
Is it wrong this gives me hope
for other hard and bitter things?
Just asking the question,
already I feel myself begin to soften.

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I want to go back in years
and find my grandmother Rose
when she is living in Illinois
with my grandfather,
a cruel and angry man.
I want to meet her
on a cold snowy day
when the world feels small
and she feels smaller,
and I want to serve her
a bowl of ripe mango
with a squeeze of lime.
I would love to see her face
when she tasted it—
the orange flesh
that sings of sunshine,
warmth, and the far away.
Would she love it
the way I do this morning,
astonished by the goodness
that exists in the world?
Would she thrill,
as I do, in the surprise
of being served?
As it is, I delight in sitting
on a deep red couch with my friend,
sighing as we slip the soft cubes
into our mouths,
making lists of people
we long to feed mango—
like Beethoven, like Etty Hillesum,
like my grandmother,
who likely never tasted
a mango, my grandmother,
who knew so little of kindness.
Over sixty years later,
I long to serve her mango
to make her feel seen,
cared for, special,
astonished by the sweetness
of the world.

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Sometimes even a small sweetness—
a kind word, a kind act—

is robust enough to take root,
and though its perfume soon fades

and its petals wither,
the roots persist so years later

when you least expect it,
there in a forgotten field,

or perhaps in your own well-tended yard,
you catch the scent of sweetness

and follow it until you find again
the fragrant bloom of it, not at all

diminished by time. No, maybe sweeter
because it was forgotten.

Sweeter because with roots like that,
you now trust it will come back again.

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One Hunger

whir of the first hummingbird—
it’s come so far
for sweetness

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So little of life’s sweetness

can be planned. Oh, meals,

of course, and sometimes

children. But mostly, joy

loves a surprise, loves

when schedules get shuffled

and agendas unravel and

suddenly there’s a space

for bliss to slip in dressed

in calamity’s clothes.

So easy to praise what

looks like success—

but teach me to give thanks

for the mess—

whatever is burnt, broken,

wounded, fumbled, missed.

Teach me to be open in each

unscripted moment

to the bloom of gratefulness.

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As I hull them

I think of the summer day

when Jen and I

rode our bikes

over Wisconsin hills

to the berry farm

and picked so many berries

we had to drive back later

with a car—

how hard it is

to be moderate

when met with abundance.

I froze the strawberries then

as I do now,

small red sweetnesses

for winter when

I will find it hard

to remember

just how generous

the sun.

Oh if that girl of twenty two

could see me now,

standing in the kitchen,

what would I tell her?

Nothing. Not a thing.

She has so much

to learn about trying

to save what she loves.

Better to just let her

see me as I am now—

red juice on my fingers,

red juice on my chin,

a pucker on my lips.



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Eventually you decide the scratches are worth it

and you wade through the vines into the thicket

where the berries still hang red and ripe and profuse.

You leave a suggestion of a path behind you.

Tomorrow it will be invisible, like so many paths

you’ve made. The bushes, like convictions, will reclaim

their wildness. But for now, there is this sweetness

to follow, this hunger, this pleasure in finding a way,

this drive to harvest all that the day has to offer.


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Ursa Major




Like the bear in the darkness

scavenging the campground

for chocolate bars,

I, too, long for sweetness.

It keeps me awake,

my hunger. I lumber

through these summer nights,

hunting, my senses alive.

Don’t let morning come soon.

I swear there’s a hint

of sweetness here somewhere.



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when I was four or five

and my mom took me

to a home where rhubarb

was growing.

The old woman there

cut the thick red stalks,

peeled back the tough outer skin

and then sprinkled

the naked stem

with sugar. The crystals

stuck to the wetness.

Take a bite, she urged,

my first invitation

to learn how

it takes so little sweetness

sometimes to transform

a sourness into something

we might learn to love.


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My son cuts the rhubarb while I
hull the strawberries. We sing
scales and talk about hacking.
That’s a lot of sugar, he says,
as he pours the measuring cup
into the mixing bowl. I think
of all the things I wish I could sweeten.
Just today, I kept returning
to the same bitter views.
It was like touching a bruise
to be sure it still hurts.
It still hurts. I think about how
the Dalai Lama might tell me,
go ahead. Pick up the burning coals
and throw them at the man
you think deserves them. Of course
the only hand to get hurt is mine,
but all day, I reach for the coals,
even now as my son and I
turn our talk to growing things.
This summer, we’ll harvest
our own rhubarb stalks after waiting
for three full years. I try to turn
my thoughts toward sweetnesses.
My boy. The honey of singing.
The way that the ground brings forth
what is green and vital,
year after year after year.
The pie fills the house
with a wonderful scent
as it bakes, the marriage
of sharp and sugar. You can’t
bake a pie without fire, I think.
I leave the coals where they are.

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