Welcome to where I am, where my kitchen's always messy, a pot's (or a poet) always about to boil over, a dog is always begging to be fed. Drafts of poems on the counter. Windows filled with leaves. Wind. Clouds moving over the mountains. If you like poetry, books, and music--especially dog howls when a siren unwinds down the hill-- you'll like it here.


MY NEW AUTHOR'S SITE, KATHRYNSTRIPLINGBYER.COM, THAT I MYSELF SET UP THROUGH WEEBLY.COM, IS NOW UP. I HAD FUN CREATING THIS SITE AND WOULD RECOMMEND WEEBLY.COM TO ANYONE INTERESTED IN SETTING UP A WEBSITE. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT MY NEW SITE TO KEEP UP WITH EVENTS RELATED TO MY NEW BOOK.


MY NC POET LAUREATE BLOG, MY LAUREATE'S LASSO, WILL REMAIN UP AS AN ARCHIVE OF NC POETS, GRADES K-INFINITY! I INVITE YOU TO VISIT WHEN YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ SOME GOOD POEMS.

VISIT MY NEW BLOG, MOUNTAIN WOMAN, WHERE YOU WILL FIND UPDATES ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MY KITCHEN, IN THE ENVIRONMENT, IN MY IMAGINATION, IN MY GARDEN, AND AMONG MY MOUNTAIN WOMEN FRIENDS.




Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SPRING CLEANING: A Poem for Chitra Divakaruni


A couple of months ago I received an invitation to submit some poems, each no longer than 32 lines, to an anthology whose theme was "collecting." I collect words, so why not try to write some poems collecting words I like. I stood in the kitchen, thinking about how badly my house, especially the kitchen, need some elbow grease, as my mother used to call it. On the kitchen counter spread my out of control spice collection. Hmmmm. I was also reading Chitra Divakaruni's novels; Mistress of Spices is perhaps her best known, since it was made into a movie. I like them all, but I have to say that Sister of My Heart and
The Vine of Desire is where to begin if you don't know her work. She's also a poet and it was as a poet that I first came to know of her. As I fiddled around with the names of spices, I kept thinking of Chitra, some of the recipes she'd posted on her blog, and so ended up thinking of this as her poem.


SPRING CLEANING

for Chitra

I take stock of the spices
I've kept for too long--

coriander and cumin,
that catch-all called curry,

and paprika, accent
that's always the first earthy

syllable, rich as Hungarian
sod swirling into the gulasz.

Masala and tandoori powders
a drooping wife might sniff

to kindle her passion
for waking back up again,

turmeric turning her fingertips
golden, a pinch of it

under her lip
like my grandmother's snuff,

balm for aching wrists
after the grinding of nutmeg

and cinnamon. Cayenne
for cleansing the sinuses.

Gesundheit! my grandmother,
framed on the wall by my pantry

exclaims! Dump them
simply because expiration

dates say so? Gourmet
magazine sneering "Off with their

lids, down the drain"?
I won't do it. Just let me

stay here a little while longer,
inhaling their presence. Their names.

This painting by Cindy Davis, one of her Twenty Somethings, captures some of the imagery in Chitra's work. I love the way Cindy works with trees and their roots. I soon will have a house full of her paintings.

7 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

Lovely poem -- the very idea of spices is redolent with the romance of the East, the Spice Islands (and not the ones at Food Lion,) the galleons bringing spices to liven the bland boiled foods of Britain.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

I love the word "redolent," don't you? And "galleons." English has such wonderful words; I wonder why English food is/was so bland?

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

Kay...the poem is wonderful! I love that movie,in fact I bought it.The Spice Shop in it is fabulous.I think I'll watch it again today!

Kaye Barley said...

Here we go! Lovely words coupled with lovely images. What's nicer?!

Redolent is a wonderful word. and "copacetic." Does anyone use that word any more? i love it.

Jessie Carty said...

what a beautiful poem :)

And that artwork is amazing!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Well, Yusef Komunyakaa used copacetic as the title of one of his books. I didn't know what it meant at the time! So unsophisticated! I'm glad you like the poem. And Cindy's artwork is fabulous. We are talking about collaborating on a project.
Do read some of Chitra's work if you haven't already. I can't get it out of my head.

Julie said...

Beautiful. The poem and the artwork.