Poetry: “The Woman Who Loves to Cook” and other poems, by Florence Nash

The Woman Who Loves to Cook

If asked, she’d say, It’s tactile: Chopping. Digging 
my thumbs into the ripe tomato pulp, 
or under the slippery skin of chicken breast 
to loosen it. Hands slick with oil and herbs 
from working meat chunks deep in marinade, 
she’d say, I like to fit the dripping pieces 
neatly in the corners of the Pyrex 
baking dish. Or she might say, it’s for 
the mother-smell of garlic and grilled lamb 
that hangs all evening in the work-warmed air. 
As she tastes and stirs, waves her spoon 
and laughs, offers more wine and second helpings, 
she won’t admit, I want to stoke your hunger
with my work, then feed you with myself.
Oyster Mushrooms

This morning after rain
	under the leaves
		the logs have come alive.

Along their rotting
	mottled flanks a fleshy
		efflorescence gleams.

Stooping through the woods’ 
	wet clutch and snare
		I tear the limp frills

gently from the mother bark
	to make my wild ragout.
		Hours after, my fingers keep

their punky, faint smell, sad
	and delicious. I remember
		us naked in the rain.

We choose plump, bundled leeks, 
pale green and white, 
red peppers, fresh-ground sausage. 

We crush garlic, melt cheeses, tear
the fragrant, flesh-warm bread.

Loaf, roast, ragout, sauté, oh soufflé of desire!
How the keen knife slices us.

We coddle, simmer, stir, beat,
lift the ladle to each other's lips and taste 
the blended flavors. 

Tangy, complex, sweet.

At midnight, ravening, shivering 
in the refrigerator’s chilly glow,
again we eat, with our hands, mouthful 
after mouthful after mouthful.

Florence Nash was born in North Carolina, graduated from UNC and, following 20-odd years of peregrinations, settled in Durham in 1987, where she worked for Duke University Medical Center at various jobs, from research analyst in Alzheimer’s to managing editor of a journal. For 16 years she directed the poetry workshop for Duke’s OLLI program. She was one of ten Emerging Poets of the New South showcased at Vanderbilt’s Millennial Gathering of Writers. Her poetry has been published in two collections, Crossing Water and Fish Music, and in a scattering of journals and anthologies.

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