Kevin Young is only the Steven King of poetry in his level of output and thickness of books. There are two sections in his collection Dear Darkness that are made up entirely of odes to food.
While every section of his book is excellent, and I want to come back and do another interaction or two with it, I also really enjoyed writing about food as opposed to love or family.
I'm also planning on posting a remix of this poem, in the vain of Kevin Young's To Repel Ghosts, which I read before I knew who Kevin Young was.
Ode To The Alligator In Pirate Soup
Living in Florida didn't teach me anything
about The South. Except that
every job interview asked my religion before
my qualifications. And if you put on a play
making fun of the KKK, a dozen white men will
walk out. But there are racists in The North, too.
Missing home, I found a seafood restaurant with
New England Clam Chowder on the menu. What
came out was red and thinner than the chef's
excuse Of course it's New England Clam Chowder.
Let me show you the can it came out of.
Refusing the obviously Manhattan
Chowder, I ordered something
forgettable with alligator.
Did not remember the dish for years.
I am sorry I forgot you alligator.
Sorry our next encounter was a joke
about the food cycle as Simon, Maybe, and I
got drunk and fed hot dogs to the baby
alligators in the caged moat of a mini-golf course
before crossing the street to eat gator nuggets.
Disrespectfully fried reptiles
kept frozen in the back and on the menu
until tourist season.
I am sorry our second meeting was so cheap.
That I forgot you every time I left that
I was in a panic when I saw you
in the exotic meats aisle of the fancy
food retailer. I was surprise cooking
a thirteen course meal with
mostly improvised recipes
based on the titles of Dr. Who episodes.
Silurians! I thought. They are reptilian.
Alligators are reptilian. And I pulled
stack after stack of you from the refrigerator.
Bagged you with lamb and beef and sausage and
all the common beasts. I bought too much of
you. Split you into recipes
you shouldn't belong in. But
you were the perfect accent in a stew.
Held your own in a flavor battle against
chicken in the battle of bay leaves.
I couldn't stop inventing
reasons for you to appear in my kitchen.
It was Dean who suggested I open up
a roadside alligator restaurant.
How you sriracha
bleeding off my menu.
How you pepper toothed in stew.
How you oyster sauced and brown sugared.
How you sweet.
How you spice. All these roles
usually cast for beef and chicken
you could fill.
I can open a roadside diner
like I can open waterpark in Manitoba.
I can. I just don't know how.
But I've started stupider ventures.
None of them starring as
dependable partners as you.
April Penn's response to Dear Darkness, like my own, involves food and hunger. Maybe don't read this book while fasting.
Reader Response Poem to Kevin Young’s Dear Darkness
is what the past
~ Kevin Young, “Ode to Cushaw”
You search everywhere in the cemetery,
but you can’t find your great grandfather’s grave.
Instead, you delight in odes of the food he may have eaten.
Hunger never leaves, craving always the next poem
for okra, grits, crawfish, catfish, black eyed peas,
Gumbo, sweet potato pie, watermelon…
You say, “like rice/ you rise,” (Ode to Boudin) --
the transcendence of food, not magic
but history trying to taste your tongue.
Eating your most edible story, figs of smoke.
So sweet and vanishing an author, a lost uncle
memory of a man burning too bright.
I forgot how much I enjoy remixing poems. Here's the restructured ode from my Kevin Young interaction. This may inspire more remixes later.
Ode To The Alligator In Pirate Soup (Remixed For Stew)
You reptile walking out out of forgettable
Winner of the battle of bay leaves
Brown sugar toothed
Sriracha bleeding off your dependable
I feed you hotdogs and
open The South in your Florida
(that flaccid peninsula)
Pull you out of freezers
stacked with common beasts
You are the missing in my job interview
a roadside attraction
a religion for tourist season
You panic bagged in perfect accent
peppered waterpark of qualifications
You are thirteen courses of refusing
Crossing the street to exotic
Fancy surprising in a caged moat of oyster sauce
Never frozen disrespectfully or fried joke
I'm sorry I forgot you
bagged you in recipes with lamb and sausages
I couldn't stop inventing stupider reasons to
split you from my kitchen
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.