Gourmand’s Prayer by Barbara Goldberg ’63

Barbara Goldberg graduated Phi Beta Kappa in Philosophy from Mount Holyoke College. She went on for an MA from Yeshiva University, MEd from Columbia University; and an MFA from American University. She has authored four prize-winning books of poetry, including The Royal Baker’s Daughter, recipient of the Felix Pollak Poetry Prize. Her most recent book is Scorched by the Sun, poems translated from the Hebrew by the Israeli poet Moshe Dor. Goldberg and Dor translated and edited three anthologies of contemporary Israeli poetry, including After the First Rain: Israeli Poems on War and Peace. The recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as awards in fiction and speechwriting, Goldberg’s work appears widely, including American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry and the Paris Review. Currently she is Visiting Writer at American University’s MFA program.

Gourmand’s Prayer

Yellowtail snapper with citrus beurre blanc
filet mignon in demi-glace cabernet
roast duck garnished with mint-jellied peaches
angels on horseback (dates stuffed with garlic cloves
wrapped in bacon and served in a hot honey-pepper sauce)
bananas foster, key lime pie
dense, flourless chocolate cake
drizzled with a raspberry coulis.
Lord, grant me the power to well digest all that I have well eaten.

The Music of What Happens

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music (Word Press) was published in 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals over the past 35 years. Born in New York City in 1940, Kohler attended public schools there, Mount Holyoke College (A.B., 1961) and Bryn Mawr College, 1966 and Ph.D., 1971). She’s taught literature and writing in venues ranging from elementary school to university. She lives in Massachusetts.

The long spell of freezing’s turned
the blanket of snow to smothering ice.
Earth’s bandaged, damaged. Cows huddle
on the mucky hillock, hunched, black
and dun, winter-stained, geese overhead,
their bellies soot-blackened like the ruins
of dry snowbanks all along the berms.

What will become of me in this season
if I go naked? One swallow doesn’t make
a summer, one robin a spring. The line
of hills on the horizon is so clear I see
the delicate fringe of trees along its crest,
see through their branches. Three birds
land in the mulberry top, small black
flourishes on a black and white sketch.

Properly understood the weather’s music.
In the night I wake thinking of our lives
unspooling, running out, being used up.
My son, my daughter-in-law, are silent
somewhere in the distance of their lives.
My sister’s a stranger, my friends are my
sisters, I am trying to make friends with
my husband’s sisters. This too is music.

I am lifted, saddened, elated, pulled
earthward. The worlds we invent to
realize ourselves are prisons formed by
our limits. The sun’s refracted, a fan of
pale gold flooding the gray east, silvering
the snow on the deck. If it touches me
will I turn younger or older? A shift in
the music’s key is sudden as weather.

Copyright Sandra Kohler 2012