Stewing on Gratitude

"Kitchen Ingredients" image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Kitchen Ingredients” image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Andrew Lazo

So I guess I’m grateful. And even when I’m not, I try to give thanks anyway. I’ve been fencing with the Muse for days, bludgeoning and begging her for something to say about gratitude. Something that will not sound practised and tired from trying too hard. Alas.

I ended up with half a bad sonnet, and some lines from poets that always make me glad to speak English. And with about a dozen mopy and morose ideas, along with one half-baked attempt to write a blog called “No, thank you”–a high-minded mediation on giving thanks for absence and loss.

Bleh. It all sounded stupid.

All the while truth be told, I really only wanted to make this lamb stew with lentils, Thai curry, and coconut milk, and maybe some cornbread–it’s cold out today. It occurs to me that sometimes when I find myself inexplicably out of sorts, I cook instead of anything else. At least I’ll have something to eat anyway, right? And can assemble something that usually will not go wrong, something I can muse about while doing. That anyway usually turns out okay.

After those fruitless hours of grappling, what follows came out rather quickly. I’ve always wanted to write something earthy, real, nimble, and relatable, like Billy Collins and Mary Oliver. And upon finding the lines below, I can boldly pronounce that I still want to write something like that. This will have to do. Neither poet should feel threatened.

But maybe I captured a moment. If you rather, call it a polaroid more than a poem. And yes, I do give thanks–for time to rummage around and find nothing, as well as for food to eat, both today and on Thursday when I plan to further gorge myself on friendship, food, and more poetry.

And I give thanks for a chance to air the little laundry of a grumble, a chance to remind myself quite practicably of the very thing I taught a few Sundays ago: that all moments can show themselves as sacramental, if I will just have eyes to see, that all eating is eucharistic, and that every emptiness and inability surely points to so much more, just around some corner of the cosmos that I can’t quite yet see.

Somedays I’m good for little more than stewing. But Bono says to write about what’s going on, and when nothing’s going on, to right about that. So here you go. Deep gratitude to those who made it this far, and to those who keep waiting patiently.

While trying to write a poem, I cook lentil stew instead.

I’m done.
I’ve wrestled with angels and onomatopoeia all morning long and
I’m hungry
and cold
and I need to make mirepoix to go
into this stew that has sat, simmering,
in my mind for weeks. Besides,

it’s sunny outside and I’ve been holed up here
too long, with coffee and books,
and not much of anyone else,
but these rhymes that feel forced
and enjambment quite certain to
never jam up
anybody’s machine. And so

I’m going now. Yes, and leaving the poem
all undone, because
at least I know how to craft
a stew made from scratch.

And though the celery may well protest,
it ultimately cannot resist
the swift sacrifice I mean to make of it:
to the unfeeling chopping block it goes.
Carrots too, and onions, and then
all into the pot, to bubble all day,
reassuringly nourishing, and smelling
(slightly) of laurel leaves.

As so somehow these hands
(which can’t manage to make
any poems today)
still might find ways to feed
other needs anyway:

Crafting culinary couplets at least
and make some sort of
song out of searing,
and stewing,
and stirring, and smells.

*****

Andrew Lazo is a teacher, writer, and sought-after speaker on C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. Read more from him at his website: http://andrewlazo.com

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