Editor’s Note: Catherine Carter is the featured writer for poetry in Delmarva Review’s 15th anniversary issue, just published. Four of her poems are presented in the edition, introduced by an interview from poetry editor Anne Colwell.
Author’s Note: As readers will quickly deduce, this poem began with cooking kidney beans. It started out as a straightforward, or rather straight-backward, recipe. But then somehow geologic strata and digestive chemistry and “Wade in the Water” and the Hindu god Shiva, who dances destruction and creation in his circle of flame, all got into the act. Cooking dinner turned out, unsurprisingly, to be connected to…well, everything.
Before you begin, sauté the onions long and slow. Before that,
dice them carefully, unhurrying. Before that, soak the beans all
through the night while you rest in your bed. When the onions
soften and sizzle, add the green chiles, also sliced small. With
them, the cumin seeds, toasted to fragrant and ground brown and
fine with a pestle. All that makes the bed at the bottom of the
crockery pot for the smooth maroon beans, in their turn a bed for
clear water, without form and void, which they will thicken and
change all the long day you’re off speaking, teaching, simmering
words: beds under beds, geologic strata to be tilted and turned by
fire tectonics, tumbled by bubbles in God-troubled seas. Then
macerated in stomach acids, split and pried down to molecules by
intestinal cells, recast from vegetable into animal, matter into
energy, bean-seed and bean-soul cracked by the heat of a life it
never planned. It’s only dinner: only there is no only, dinner
being chemistry biology energy transfer transfiguration twice
over. Attend. Don’t hurry. Dancing like Shiva, or the beans, in
your circle of fire swinging its own circle round the sun, it is all
right to take time, to eat well, to grind fine: for when you open
the door from the cumin-scented warmth and walk out, perhaps
with a nose-souled dog, there are the stars of autumn, shaken and
tumbled in the cauldron of the void, and all around them, the dark
waters are troubled.
Catherine Carter was raised on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She now lives with her husband in Cullowhee, NC, near Western Carolina University, where she is a professor in the English education program and interim managing editor of Cider Press Review. Her most recent full-length collection is Larvae of the Nearest Stars (LSU Press, 2019). Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2009, Orion, Poetry, North Carolina Literary Review, Asheville Poetry Review, and Ploughshares, among others. On a good day, she says she can re-queen a hive of honeybees and roll a whitewater kayak. On less good days, she collects stings, rockburn, and multiple contusions.
Over its 15-year history, Delmarva Review has published new literary prose and poetry from 490 authors from 42 states, the District of Columbia, and 16 foreign countries. Forty-six percent are from the Chesapeake and Delmarva region. Financial support comes from tax-deductible contributions and a grant from Talbot Arts with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: www.DelmarvaReview.org
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