Our Potluck (Your Contribution)

By Daniel A. Harris

"Cupcakes?!" "Oui, mais cupcakes de France!" you purr.
We grin — that coarse word young Julia, post-war,
would have scorned. Il n'ya pas un mot français
pour ces… poofs of dough in pleated papers
risen, this dozen like kisses you've brought
to our table. The chandelier brightens
their glaze — will we gulp down my second try
at Thai ginger chicken? Both of you baked,
you tell us, Lou (and "snitched more than enough!")—
concoctions your émigrée sister schemed
in Sauve (the cookbook hers, the restaurant hers),
below steep hills couched low where a river
indolently meanders not too far
from Avignon,
                          under suns of Provence,
where once an Algerian boy, I recall,
tugged at my sleeve and asked (not for centimes
to buy bread, but) did I want to coucher
avec sa mère? — across rubbled urban fields
she waved me to her shack amidst the waste.
But now?—here, Naomi, you offer us
these, on a glass platter, incised, salvaged
with her Yiddish by your great-grandmother
from Grudno, viridian, silver-fretted
with tendrils, meadow blooms: la présentation
indeed! esteeming the hosts as it proves
your arts.
                        I almost taste the compliment,
surprised to be so fetched that just the view
of such slight rarities, these French cupcakes
(not my folks' kuchen from Diesbach), elates
me with a tang of fun I'd forgotten
I'd wanted: saved by treats from Sauve! Prudence,
you counsel: bite with intent; let the tongue
distinguish each taste — vanilla, lemon,
the two sugars and the caramel glaze
that sheens the tart, thin slices of apple
layered on top: in your mouth then mingle
the ensemble.
                        I'd like to say, "It’s your tales
that lure me to your cupcakes — a town spared
the two wars," a guestroom waiting, le Sud!
the Mediterranean (my first frisson
and transport) before the rough Atlantic
journeys. But I'd be lying: I salivate.
I'll gobble my share in chomps (even some
of your share, Jane) and quite forget the wants
of strangers at any city’s outskirts
who wait for the midday dump trucks, hover
to scavenge garbage, foods tossed by others.
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About Daniel A. Harris

Daniel A. Harris's first collection of poems, Loose Parlance, appeared in 2008 (Princeton: Ragged Sky Press).  He has published some of his poetry in The California Review,  Midstream, The Threepenny Review, The Sow's Ear, US One Worksheets, Kerem, Blue Unicorn, Living Text, The Evansville Review, Regarding Arts and Letters, The Higginsville Reader, Prelaton, Love's Chance, Blueline, The Silt Reader, Tiger's Eye, and Poetica. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart award. He has written books on William Butler Yeats (1974), Gerard Manley Hopkins (1982), and Alfred Tennyson (1984). He is the founder of JEWISH VOICES: 200 YEARS OF POETRY IN ENGLISH, his education program of presentations and short courses for Jewish organizations (1998-2003). He works with regional conservation organizations and has recently been involved in campaigns to save old-growth acreage from inappropriate development and to prevent the development of a gated community in downtown Princeton, NJ.

3 Comments

  1. Amanda Harvey
    Posted October 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    This is marvelous. I’m a huge fan of food writing, and this food poetry is simply delightful. Not only was I entranced by the language, but also by the food imagery; I’m hungry!

    Even though I don’t speak French, I can still understand the theme of the poem and what’s going on, which is good. (I’m sure if I knew the phrases it would enhance the meaning of the poem for me; however, I did not feel lost due to my lack of knowledge of the language.)

    Great job!

  2. Genevieve
    Posted October 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Just bring the food.

  3. Jean
    Posted October 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    It’s the words, the scrumptious words chosen for me to roll around in my mouth, unfortunately in place of the food described, but still SO DELICIOUS! Thank you for the delectable descriptions, and references to France that put me right there, in the middle of the cupcake, as well as the landscape. Merveilleux!

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