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Friday, September 30, 2011



Stomach of goat, crushed
sheep balls, soft full
pearls of pig eyes,
snout gristle, fresh earth,
worn iron of trotter, slate
of Zaragoza, dried cat heart,
cock claws. She grinds
them with one hand and
with the other fists
mountain thyme, basil,
paprika, and knobs of garlic.
And if a tooth of stink thistle
pulls blood from the round
blue marbled hand
all the better for
this ruby of Pamplona,
this bright jewel of Vich,
this stained crown
of Solsona, this
The daughter
of mismatched eyes,
36 year old infant smelling
of milk. Mama, she cries, mama,
but mama is gone,
and the old stone cutter
must wipe the drool
from her jumper. His puffed fingers
unbutton and point her
to toilet. Ten, twelve hours
a day, as long as the winter sun
hold up he rebuilds
the unvisited church
of San Martin. Cheep cheep
of the hammer high above
the town, sparrow cries
lost in the wind or lost
in the mind. At dusk he leans
to the coal dull wooden Virgin
and asks for blessings on
the slow one and peace
on his grizzled head, asks
finally and each night
for the forbidden, for
the knowledge of every
mysterious stone, and
the words go out on
the overwhelming incense
of salami.
A single crow
passed high over the house,
I wakened out of nightmare.
The winds had changed,
the Tremontana was tearing
out of the Holy Mountains
to meet the sea winds
in my yard, burning and
scaring the young pines.
The single poplar wailed
in terror. With salt,
with guilt, with the need
to die, the vestments
of my life flared, I
was on fire, a stranger
staggering through my house
butting walls and falling
over furniture, looking
for a way out. In the last room
where moonlight slanted
through a broken shutter
I found my smallest son
asleep or dead, floating
on a bed of colorless light.
When I leaned closer
I could smell the small breaths
going and coming, and each
bore its prayer for me,
the true and earthy prayer
of salami.

--Philip Levine. They Feed They Lion. Atheneum, 1972.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Eating Poetry

Eating Poetry
by Mark Strand


Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.

There is no happiness like mine.

I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.

Her eyes are sad

and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.

The light is dim.

The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,

their blond legs burn like brush.

The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.

When I get on my knees and lick her hand,

she screams.

I am a new man.

I snarl at her and bark.

I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Shel Silverstein!

Italian Food

Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just 'cause how good it tastes
But 'cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops—I think I split my jeani.

--Shel Silverstein. Every Thing On It: Poems & Drawings. HarperCollins, 2011.

Blackberry Eating

The bushes are pretty much picked clean by now, but that doesn't mean we can't still savor, at least in our imaginations, a fresh blackberry. Click on this link to read and listen to Galway Kinnell's poem Blackberry Eating.

Friday, September 23, 2011



I eat these
wild red raspberries
still warm from the sun
and smelling faintly of jewelweed
in memory of my father

tucking the napkin
under his chin and bending
over an ironstone bowl
of the bright drupelets
awash in cream

my father
with the sigh of a man
who has seen all and been redeemed
said time after time
as he lifted his spoon

men kill for this.

--Maxine Kumin

(Thanks to Kevin Miller for suggesting I post this one.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eating the Bones

Eating The Bones
by Ellen Bass

The women in my family
strip the succulent
flesh from broiled chicken,
scrape the drumstick clean;
bite off the cartilage chew the gristle,
crush the porous swelling
at the ends of each slender baton.
With strong molars
they split the tibia, sucking out
the dense marrow.
They use up love, they swallow
every dark grain,
so at the end there's nothing left,
a scant pile of splinters
on the empty white plate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


What might be universally beautiful is hard to imagine,
perhaps only the sunrise and sunset,
perhaps the moon. If on earth

it might be cherries,
loved by the fierce and tender, eaten
by birds and foxes, and what humans don't take
are claimed by little green worms.

It's the time of year everyone stops what they're doing to eat them.
Pits bundled in animal scat nestle between cobblestones.
For these few weeks they gleam in every tree
the whole world seems not only edible but delicious.

Is there a pleasure in the mind like this simple sugar,
cherry joy--the whole mouth involved in

plucking the fruit from the resistant stem,
tongue, teeth, and lips cooperating in slipping the sweet flesh
englobing the pit, wet, belly-beautiful

in the mouth able to
collect and hold two or three in one cheek before
spitting them out. Nothing is more true than the body
then, how it is made to consume pleasure, for pleasure
to pass right through. It's the mind that's

made to ponder it, to hold on. The mind of Japanese samurai
held the cherry as an emblem for the warrior, he who
breaks the skin and sheds the flesh and blood
to find the stone within.

I have watched the cherries turn from pale yellow to dark as olives
I have picked them straight from the tree, red and obvious from afar
but up close hiding between lush leaves, little clumps of them,

I used a ladder for what I could not reach
and for those even higher, I beat against the branches
until a cherry rain pelted down. I have picked up caved-in,
oozing rotten ones in search for the sturdy that have fallen.

And I have savored the brown rustle
that dissolves in the fingers reminding that each one was
a flower first, but that's all I want of

memory, I think, the distorting entrails of the mind.
Or so I resolve until I'm sated. Until I'm
staring into the night. Then I'm eager to pluck stars.

Jennifer Grotz, author of The Needle (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) and Cusp (Houghton Mifflin, 2003).

September/October 2011
Vol. 40, #5

Monday, September 19, 2011


I bought my dad a case of strawberries
from a young man on the side of the road
whose skin was as dark as the earth
he worked on. I hand them to my father.
He sets the red fruit down on the table and stares.

He holds out his hands, wrinkled and calloused,
how they used to scoop up strawberries he says
how he used those hands to carry them home,
make licuados and salads. How we used to eat them
every day with sugar or chocolate or just plain.

How that might be the only thing we ate for dinner
or lunch or breakfast. He would steal them
and sell them door to door in the neighborhood
to buy tortillas and a gallon of milk.

How he watched the sun rise every morning
and watched it work its way across the sky
like him across the fields those first years in Oxnard.
He can't eat strawberries anymore
because the taste and smell just hurts too much.

David Campos
American Poetry Review, September/October 2011 (Volume 40/No. 5)

David Campos was born in Ventura, CA in 1984. He graduated from Fresno High School and continued his education through Fresno Community College before finishing with a degree in English at California State University at Fresno. He has worked as a cashier at a meat market, pizza delivery driver and now delivers medication for a pharmacy. His poem appears in In the Grove and The Packinghouse Review, among others.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ms. Silano, Why Do You Teach English 101 with a Food Theme?

1) Confession #1: I love food. I love to talk about it, I love to read/write about it, and I am a better instructor when I make it the chief focus in my college composition classes. I enjoy all types of cuisines, but my main criterion is that the food I eat contains fresh ingredients (sometimes just-picked from my tiny garden), and organically-raised/grown produce and animal products. Does this make me a food snob? I don't know--you tell me. I have the privilege of getting to buy produce in season (at least a few months of the year), and eating wholesome/fresh foods, but even if I were living in poverty I would make it a high priority to serve up home-cooked meals using inexpensive ingredients--legumes, low-cost dairy products, whole grains, and plenty of fresh or flash-frozen produce. I also forage wild foods whenever possible (including dandelion greens, blackberries, and stinging nettles) to provide high nutrition at a low price.

2) Topic Relevance: By 2030 there could be 65 million more obese adults in the United States than in 2010, according to the epidemiologist Dr. Y. Claire Wang and her colleagues at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

This would translate into 8 million more cases of diabetes, 6.8 million more cases of atherosclerotic heart disease and strok,e and more than 500,000 more cases of cancer.

If the current trend in the rise of obesity continues, three out of every four Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020.

In 2003, the healthcare cost for treating obesity and its related diseases was $75 billion. That amount is trending toward $140 billion a year by 2030.

For every five-point rise in body mass index, men face a 52 percent increase in the risk of esophageal cancer and a 24 percent increase in colon cancer, while women can expect a 59 percent rise in the risk of both endometrial and gallbladder cancer and a 12 percent rise in postmenopausal breast cancer.

Other obesity-related ailments that contribute to the loss of disability-free years and productivity include osteoarthritis, benign prostate disease, infertility, asthma, sleep apnea and birth defects, which are linked to maternal obesity.

2) More Relevance:

Many refer to the obesity epidemic as America's most pressing health problem.We may not always agree on why we are becoming a nation of overweight people, but a recent
series of reports in The Lancet points to several factors: (1) We exercise less, a lot less; we are car-dependent and believe that low prices and convenience are king; (2) T
here are food vending machines stuffed with candy and soda, fast-food emporiums and shopping malls delivering up all order of high-calorie concoctions; (3) Billboards & TV commercials bombard us with enticing depictions of high-calorie, highly-processed foods; (4) We eat outside of the home, or eat “conveniently” all too often; (5) Substances that humans are evolutionarily programmed to crave, but that are found rarely in nature--sugar, salt and fat--are more readily available than ever in the form of Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Coke, Micky D's, KFC, Jack in the Box, Krispy Kreme donuts, etc.

3) Local & Global Poverty: According in an article on September 14, 2011, in The New York Times, in 2010, about 48 million people ages 18 to 64 did not work even one week out of the year, up from 45 million in 2009. It also states that currently 46.2 million Americans live in poverty, and that Black Americans experienced the highest poverty rate, at 27 percent, up from 25 percent in 2009, and Hispanics rose to 26 percent from 25 percent. (White Americans experienced a poverty rate of 9.9 percent). When people are out of work and trying to make ends meet, they look for inexpensive foods which often come in the form of refined carbohydrates containing simple sugars; it is these foods that are causing lifestyle diseases that look exactly like the diseases of first-world poverty.

Globally, half the world's children live in poverty (1 out of 2 billion). Unicef estimates that 22,000 children die every day because of it. They also die from lack of clean water; in fact, 1.8 children million die each year from diarrhea due to contaminated water. What does this have to do with us, our food consumption, the way we grow our food? Sometimes the gulf between the haves and the have-nots seems insurmountable and unbridgeable--I am not here to tell you that we can save the world by not eating meat. I am only hear to engage you in a conversation about food and the way it's processed (or not processed), marketed, & distributed. I don't have the answers--but maybe some of you do.

4) When we eat conveniently and inexpensively it also turns out that we harm not only our own bodies but the bodies of farm laborers. That's because farm laborers cannot be paid a living wage when Safeway charges .89 cents a pound for cabbage. Most farm laborers receive no health or retirement benefits. They may work 14 or more hours a day, earn far below the minimum wage, and be as young as twelve to work in the fields from sun up until sunset, picking your low-cost tomatoes and lettuce. Yes, that, right: a 12-year old likely picked the tomato that is now a pool of ketchup on that giant Big Mac you're about to bite into. Either that, or someone your father's age worked all day in a field loading 240 lb.-crates for something like $3/hour.

5) We not only harm other human beings, but many of our food choices harm farm animals and our environment. When a box of Rice Chex is trucked from Ohio to Washington, that translates into quite a bit of fossil fuels and tire usage. When tires start to break down, they release all kinds of nasty chemicals, including mercury and lead. Every time it rains, these chemicals wend their way down to Puget Sound. The salmon get to eat those yummy chemicals. Animals that are raised in CAFOs (Concentrated Area Feeding Operations) spew out a TON of manure (a cow produces 150 pounds of fecal matter per day); it gets into the water system and sickens people. Speaking of water, you need between 500-2,500 gallons to produce ONE pound of beef. If you live in the desert (as most of us in Western America do), this seems like a high price for eating steak.

6) I'm not here to depress you or make you feel guilty. This class is about raising awareness--pulling back the veil and seeing what's behind these labels, behind the glossy print ads and the aura of a corporate name or names. I encourage you to enjoy the food you like to eat--to celebrate the foods that solidify and confirm your cultural heritage and your identity--but to be prepared to get acquainted with food on a systems level--not only your personal relationship with it, but a more holistic approach. You might leave here all pumped up to grow your own food (if you can), or all fired up about how food corporations market their wares to you and your children. That's good--but you don't need to get all pumped up, become a vegan, or convert your dorm room into a greenhouse to get an A in this class.

6) What you need to do is delay the temptation to make up your mind today (or next week) about your opinion about our food system as it currently exists, as well as the possibilities for the future. As a citizen and a consumer, you deserve to know what's in your food, whether anything that's been added is good for you, and what the animals you are eating ate before they were slaughtered. You might not want to know, and in some ways I don't blame you. But in this class you are going to find out. And we are going to write (and in some cases talk) about it. Keep an open mind, do your best to withhold judgment, complete the reading/writing assignments, come to class ready to dive into the activities, and I will support you in every way I can with succeeding in this course.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Keeping Our Small Boat Afloat

So many blessings have been given to us
During the first distribution of light, that we are
Admired in a thousand galaxies for our grief.

Don't expect us to appreciate creation or to
Avoid mistakes. Each of us is a latecomer
To the earth, picking up wood for the fire.

Every night another beam of light slips out
From the oyster's closed eye. So don't give up hope
That the door of mercy may still be open.

Seth and Shem, tell me, are you still grieving
Over the spark of light that descended with no
Defender near into the Egypt of Mary's womb?

It's hard to grasp how much generosity
Is involved in letting us go on breathing,
When we contribute nothing valuable but our grief.

Each of us deserves to be forgiven, if only for
Our persistence in keeping our small boat afloat
When so many have gone down in the storm.

--Robert Bly