Speaking of which, how do you make basic pasta sauce taste savory? For a long time I've been making this quick-and-dirty pasta sauce: chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh garlic, mushrooms, olive oil, and butter. I try to stay away from salt when I can--never mind the four handfuls of salt-and-vinegar chips I had earlier--so no salt. So, okay. I make this sauce and once in a while it's good, but lately I'm more often finding that it's very bland. If I have it in the house, I might grate reggiano on it, but say that I don't--how do I make this tastier? Aside from salt.
We were in love and his uncle had a farm
where he took me hunting
to try to be in love even more.
He wanted me to have what he had:
toast buttered with bad light
in a truck stop splotched with smoke,
then moonlight on the hills and snow
like a woman stepping out of her dress.
And it was good even as we killed it.
The stalks lightening,
the sun rising like a worn, yellow slicker
over us, bent over panting
because it wasn't hit cleanly
and had run us both dizzy
before settling down.
There was a particular knife he used
to make the asshole bigger.
After that, one could just reach in
and remove anything that wasn't necessary,
and thinking about it now, I see
the old school desk behind his uncle's house
put there for that reason,
see my husband sadly hosing it down,
as if regretting how and what men are taught...
Though the diner I see belongs
in a small town where I went to school,
the desk had no drawers, was in fact a table,
and he was whistling as he washed it.
The sun didn't rise
like something to keep the rain off us;
it hung, like a cold chandelier
in which I could see each filament
in each flame-shaped bulb
beating itself senseless against the light--
brilliant and hollow,
beautiful and inhumane...
But I wanted so badly
to forgive his hands, forgive his lovers,
and to forget how, driving home, I was fooled
by half an acre of decoys
and some camouflage netting,
how I wanted to honk but didn't,
and how the whole scene made me realize
that mannequins mate for life too,
in department stores, wearing back-to-school clothes,
made me remember that if you press hard enough
on a bird's dead breast, it will betray its own kind,
that when he took its neck and broke it
I said his first name.
-- Mark Cox
I like this even though it has a workshoppy feel to it in places and might not turn up in a poetry anthology a hundred years from now--sometimes you just get that sense, from the juxtaposition of images and language, that it has contemporary resonance but maybe not long-term significance. To me, I can zig-zag a line of cultural imagery through the poem--truck stop, slicker, knife and asshole, school desk, cold chandelier, filament, decoys, camouflage netting, mannequins. It's grounded in a very American idiom, mostly a rural idiom, and builds its meaning from that. And I think the significance of some of these images and things might fade quickly--if you combine all of the images above, you have a rural landscape, and you can track a path through the poem. These visuals are like the detritus and signs you'd see if you drove down a back-country highway: truck stop, fishermen or hunters in slickers, the old school desks something you might see sold in an antique shop. The knife-and-asshole conjunction is in a literal sense just the efficient work of geese hunters but it also calls to mind the acts of serial killers, either of which plays up, I think, masculinity in its most disturbing form.
There's a movement in the poem of driving away from that rural landscape toward an urban one--the civilization of mannequins. It's a feminine versus masculine dichotomy being created and it works pretty well.
This poem, grabbed at random from a stash of works that have my seal of approval (probably better than calling them "favorites"), reminds me of how poems often work--for me--as a kind of song of loose meaning that I don't have to fully understand in order to get feeling from. I get this almost watercolory impression from this, this sense of thoughts and feelings, jumbled in someone's mind as they replay memories.
I am avoiding writing. Sigh.