I adore Pancake Tuesday, and not just for the obvious reason that it gives me an excuse to indulge in tasty, tasty pancakes. It’s a day that also brings back warm childhood memories for me. I didn’t grow up in a religious household, but we did partake in many of the Christian traditions that have become the norm in Canada — Christmas, Easter and Shrove Tuesday (though we certainly never gave up any vices for Lent). My Mom made the best pancakes. I know everyone probably thinks that about their Mom, but “Ruth’s Pancakes”, as they were called by the many friends and family members who had the chance to taste them, were something special. We didn’t need Pancake Tuesday as an excuse to eat them, because the delicious cakes were also on the menu for many weekend brunches and even random breakfast-for-supper days. She’d make them into fun shapes, long before pancake art was a thing, and always let me eat way more than was necessary.
My Mom died just over four years ago, and since then I’ve realized just how many of my fondest memories of her, and of childhood, are ones that incorporate food and cooking. Food was love for my Mom, and it is for me too. Trying out a new recipe with my kids, or telling them stories about my family as we make a tried and true classic, is important to me. Emotion, nostalgia, that feeling of comfort and security that is especially treasured once you lose someone so close to you — all of these are ingredients in my best food memories. So of course I’ll be making “Ruth’s Pancakes” for supper tonight, to keep the tradition alive with my kids, and to feel just a little closer to my Mom.
4 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
2 cups flour
Separate eggs. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and stand in peaks. An electric hand mixer works best. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat egg yolks, sugar and oil until light and fluffy. Add baking powder, salt, flour and milk. Beat only until mixed. Fold in egg whites. Let stand for 5-10 minutes. Spoon batter into desired size, or fun shape, on to hot griddle and bake until bubbles begin to form on surface. Flip and bake until golden brown.
Another natural fit day for the prompts. NaPoWriMo.net asked for a family anecdote poem, while Poetic Asides suggested a love or anti-love poem. I went with love, based on a memory of my brother and our cat.
What convinced a bellicose boy of sixteen
to walk towards the chain link fence,
unprompted, but with a heavy head,
shovel in one hand, box in the other,
ready to gather what remained of our
orange tabby from the edge of a freeway?
It could only be love.
There it glistened in his reddened eyes when,
just as he was about to climb the fence,
he heard a croaky meow from below,
felt the nudge of our adventurous Rusty,
who’d been missing for three days,
pushing his head against my brother’s boot,
asking to be taken home and fed.
The NaPoWriMo.net prompt today suggested playing with line breaks to emphasize, or de-emphasize sounds, rhythm and thoughts. Over at Poetic Asides, the instructions were to create a poem with a food item as the title. A good one to mash up.
I stopped trying
to make pie dough
You always told me
it was easy
only a few ingredients
just a little practice
Like the way they retire
an athlete’s number
the process is honoured
the recipe stored
You never wore
an apron — too fussy
just dig in and get it
but I should’ve
of your threadbare
Mounted it in a shadow box
a smattering of flour
dusting the corner
The Poetic Asides prompt today asked for a “case” poem, and NaPoWriMo.net focused on the importance of nouns in poems, especially when trying to convey an abstract idea. I’m not sure what I wrote here actually meets either of those challenges, but maybe. I saw a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s briefcase, circulating online today because of the 50th anniversary of his assassination. The short poem came quick as a response. A few words that can in no way encompass all the emotion inspired by one photo.
it’s the hairbrush that gets me.
too personal. like knowing the particular
cadence of a heart when your
ear’s pressed against a bare chest.
the newspaper, read and reacted
or kept for a later, quiet moment,
bare feet up on the sofa, giving in
to the heavy pull of rest.
but the book, tucked there like a message
in a lunchbox. don’t forget. I’m thinking of you.
still. it takes strength to love, true, but it’s there.
a second after the shot or fifty years later,
when you need it most.
Hooray, hooray, it’s the first of … April! I always get excited about NaPoWriMo and the poem-a-day challenge. For one, it forces me to write. Secondly, I’ve learned that doing these quick drafts where I just let things flow and lay off the self-editing can actually take the writing to new and fun places. Bad writing can be made better later, but it has to exist first.
This year I’m aiming to write a poem every day in a local, closed group with other adventurous Stroll of Poets members, but when I can I will try to post here as well. I will also try to respond to either the NaPoWriMo site prompt, the Poetic Asides prompt, or a combination if it works. Today’s prompt was certainly harmonious, with my local group, NaPoWriMo and Poetic Asides all asking for a version of a “secret” poem. Here’s what snuck out.
I know it’s hidden
under a span of cold mornings,
beneath a crust of snow,
below the hardened soil,
in the throat of a robin.
I hear the whisper
of a season
ready to emerge.
I hold this secret hope
that tomorrow might bring
another Arctic gale,
another lash of winter,
another frigid night
with nothing to do
but make each other
Today’s prompt asked for a “love” or “anti-love” poem, or a mashup.
It’s been a hard year to love. With every headline, a thickening of the skin, a shell forming around a once hopeful heart. So, necessity has invented new passions. Balms, for myself and my kids. Dance parties to pop songs I used to hate. More time reading — escaping into fairy lands, fantastic realms, places where the heroines discover the light, no matter how dark the journey. I look at old photos with new eyes. My cousin, gone now, but beaming then, so near the end. The radiant smile everyone mentions in their tributes. My baby niece smirking in her sleep, not just contentment, but happiness that she is here. Existence itself a marvel. A photo of my daughters on my sister’s lap, summer sun making them all squint. Determination engraved on their faces, like a monument to great change ahead.
Today’s prompt asked for a “What I meant to say” poem. I recycled/added to an older poem I had started, because it seemed to fit the prompt quite nicely.
No one ever believes the unwatched candle will burn down the house. Or things not said can turn to tumours. In his garden, knees to the dirt, the sting of thistle on his thumb, he remembers why he started that kiss all those years ago. Remembers the why, not the kiss itself. Heat beneath her maroon sweater, but not her tongue. Something festers. Some things fester for the better, he used to think. Last he heard, she was living in California. He wonders if she’s growing anything other than older.
Today’s prompt asked for a “days of the week” poem, or a “weak” poem. I may have inadvertently written the latter by trying to write the former. But I was inspired by goddesses, as I often am. Thinking about them always makes me feel powerful.
We’ll meet on Friday. Frigga’s day. ‘Oh, Odin’s wife?’ you might ask, if you dig that Norse mythology stuff, and I’d bristle, lip pulled into a sneer. The default, still, to define the her by the him. Male adjacent. And it bugs me. But it might not bother Frigga, love goddess and all. ‘It’s unity, not hierarchy,’ Frigga might whisper in my ear, weaving my hair as she wove the clouds. ‘Love is perfect balance, do you see?’ And I might. The feathery breath of divinity warm and soft on my neck. And did she see, with her powers to do just that? Her own future, a uniform unfolding, one day into the next and the next? What good is precognition if you’re powerless to move? When you’re destined to sit, spin at the wheel, know and know you can do nothing? Friday is on the cusp, the end and the start. For Frigga, I open to you all I was and hope to be.
Today’s prompt called for starting a poem with the title “Whosoever ___________” I haven’t been titling my poems so far, so decided to make it be the first line instead. First place the word took me was to a Biblical quote, and the sinful words just took over from there.
Whosoever is just a formal way of saying whoever, but it sounds so much better with that extra “so” popped in for grandeur. You like to speak this way — in this manner, I should say — and from anyone else I would think it pretentious, but it suits you. Your rod straight spine, good posture from years of piano playing, you once told me, and the perfect part in your hair. And who other than me has seen the wild heat in your eyes, felt your body slick with sweat, heard guttural grunts from the very same mouth that quotes gospel with perfect diction? I want you to tell me it’s been many. L-words are such sweet burden on the heart.
The prompt today called for a “triangle” poem. My mind went to both geometric and romantic places.
I don’t want to believe in mystery. UFOs, Bigfoot, a certain magic triangle in the Atlantic Ocean that transports sailors and pilots to a different dimension. I don’t want to know the feeling of your open hand on my bare thigh, the pinch of your teeth on the back of my neck. I want to believe that drawing three lines in the sand will stop us from going any further. Creates borders we dare not cross, angles that let us see distinctions. There is a center, in even the most imperfect triangles. Vertex to midpoint, crossed and measured three ways. A place that is either a beginning or an end. A question or an answer. Something more than a vortex, sucking us down to somewhere.