Saturday, August 9, 2014

"Garden Beans"

“The pressure cooker,”
My grandmother would call
Her conversation from the kitchen,
So we’d gather around the table
To finish breaking and stringing.
My father would turn the 5 o’clock newscast
Down to a mumbling monologue
But still the tragic stories and relays
Of hometown miracles
Would linger about the table,
Spiraling their white noise
Between the pop of a knuckle,
the spine-crack of a bean seed.
Drifting amongst the salty sweet aroma
Of simmering ham-hocks,
A sharp clang of soap dishes
To shatter the funeral parlor quiet,
Reminding us we were still awake.

Twenty-some odd years later,
Sometime after adolescent fears of death,
While drinking wine and looking out
The window of a busy restaurant
I realize how much
the comforting words of my uncle
Once meant as he hoed the garden
In the brittle heat-wave of some long-gone summer,
How familiar the sound of my father
Slicing cucumber, the sizzle of his frying zucinni,
My mother measuring milk and pouring drinks,
And the prattling rattle of my sister setting the table;
history lost to an old clock,
The years of time melting it’s metal innards.
But the moment still lives,
Voices long-dead still immortalized
In the smell of fresh string-beans,
A kitchen bustling with the drone
Of table-conversation and the
winking tinkle of my empty wine glass.

I gently twirl the stem
And think of the good old days,
Back when time didn’t scare me,
When people whom I loved had not yet
Been stolen from the dinner table of my memory.
I tip the waitress and walk
Into the bright of daylight,
At once in love with the crazy riff-raff of traffic,
The chipping brick of a historical town
I sometimes loathe like a misery tick.
The air of my world renewed,
Life clarified more clearly,
The bones of my flesh rejuvenated
In a way no wine ever could.
I catch a glimpse of my reflection
In a consignment shop window,
At once in love with my body,
The warm glow of it’s mortal flesh,
Right down to the crumbs
At the corners of my mouth,
The coffee-stain on my shirt collar.
I rejoice in the bleeding skin
Of a broken nail from the morning dishes
And the breaking, beating heart of me
that still lives to commit
to an old memory.

Written for Red Wolf Poems and Poetry Jam.


  1. Stacy, I really like this poem & the way you captured the former times and those who are now deceased. These are some of my favorite lines:

    But the moment still lives,
    Voices long-dead still immortalized
    In the smell of fresh string-beans,
    A kitchen bustling with the drone
    Of table-conversation and the
    winking tinkle of my empty wine glass.

    Oh those moments that we remember-- and so good that they still live in poetry. It seems we never really appreciate fully what we are living when we are living it. It is good that we can often see in retrospect what we had not seen earlier.

  2. Your poem reminds us of the important times and things so many of us have lost. I too remember a local radio station playing in the background. I miss a garden and shelling or stinging beans, and daily conversations around a table. I like your ending a lot, your appreciation of you. Well penned.

  3. This is a very good poem. Your own memories led me to think of my own recollections of my mother's kitchen, especially in the summer when we spent more time there because of the holidays. We all got involved in stringing beans for the evening meal.

  4. This is so full of vivid details...expertly written, I was captured the entire poem. The ideas of times when you weren't afraid of time...before faces began disappearing from the table...that was the most striking part, for me.

  5. Vivid poem, full of images and powerfully written, full of hope and lost regrets.

  6. its funny how quick we want to get out and make our own way...but i have a quite a few memories in that kitchen with mama....weighing and freezing meat...canning veg after the summer harvest......

  7. Many good sensory details here, particularly ones related to hearing and smell, which often go neglected. I agree with Hannah -- setting the poem with the family in the kitchen and then losing people "from the dinner table of my memory" is poignant for the reader.

  8. I think this my favorite of your poems.. How the memories and connection come back you... In the smell of string beans.. That's something I will keep.. The last stanza enjoying the city and yourself is such a great connection to the present. Very well done.

  9. I so love this journey from the dream of "Voices long-dead still immortalized / In the smell of fresh string-beans," to the reality of "And the breaking, beating heart of me / that still lives to commit / to an old memory."....beautifully written Stacy...

  10. I love the nostalgia in this and the way you mix it with present moments. You paint such beautiful, mellow pictures with your words. I enjoyed reading this so much.

  11. I adore this journey back in time and the way those familiar sounds from childhood still live in our memory. I resonate so much with those stolen from the dinner table of your memory......a great line. Sigh. Loved this look back........and the glimpse of you in the present, remembering, alive.

  12. I'm glad you found Poetry Friday! Welcome!

    I love your poem -- the way the first stanza was all memory, the second a blend of then and now, and the third all now. Lovely images.

  13. i like the deep-rooted emotions in this memories... the pictures you painted and the metaphors you've given.

  14. a great poem of remembrance and nostalgia. I cherished every line of your poem like a piece of antiquity. It is a summer poem too!!! :)


  15. Wonderful poem! Love the imagery...vivid and real. = )

  16. This is so utterly beautiful. It brought back memories of my own of long dead relatives and how they colored my life. It brought tears to an old man's eyes and I thank you for that too.

    1. i am very touched that you were touched! thank you so much for your kind words. i am happy you enjoyed the poem!

  17. Welcome to Poetry Friday, Stacy, and thank you for the journey that this beautiful rush of a poem took me on.

  18. Details! Details! Details! You offer them up like a perfectly planned banquet, one complementing the other until the senses are sated. Your attention to pace and diction and scene are exceptional. A pure pleasure to read.

  19. I love this - so beautifully drawn in layered details. Really lovely evocative reflections from the past.

  20. grandmothers are important... ~

  21. Beautiful poem, Stacy, strongly nostalgic and bitter-sweet. I enjoyed reading very much!

  22. So fine, so rich in tactile memory, an assuring cloak with which to keep the heart warm through the many winters surely to come. I'm sure I'll smile whenever I hear a pole bean snap again. There's something said for making hymns out of memories, they become all the richer. Fine work. You've a fine gift and the great thing about poetry is that it can distill for decades.

    1. thank you so much for your insight and kind compliments. your words have brought a smile to my face on this stressful day!


Thank you for taking the time to comment, it is so appreciated. Your thoughts and critiques are always welcome! I will be by to visit your blog soon!