To the Refrigerator Gods. Number 8 in the Seven Kitchens Press Editor’s Series, selected by Ron Mohring. Cover photo by DeAnne Roth (with Kip Normand); cover design by Dan Kraner.
Published: July 19, 2010 [125 copies]
Second printing: March, 2011 [100 copies]
Terry Kirts is a senior lecturer teaching creative writing and literature in the English Department at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. His poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared widely in journals, and his work has been included in the anthologies O Taste and See: Food Poems, This New Breed: Gents, Bad Boys & Barbarians 2, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana. His culinary articles and reviews have appeared in WHERE, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO Artsweekly, and he is currently the dining critic for Indianapolis Monthly. He lives in Indianapolis.
Macaroni and Cheese Survey
In the mail this morning, a certified letter:
Your household has been selected to participate
in a very important study about macaroni and cheese.
And I think about the blue and white box, the pouch
of Day-Glo powder, the lonely square of margarine melting
into golden rivulets in the murky white saucepan. I remember
those Lenten nights, after stations of the cross, eating quietly
and pondering the scourging, all of Jesus’ falling,
the long blue cloth Veronica held up to wipe his face.
When do you usually eat macaroni and cheese?
After I have sinned. No, really, on cold winter nights
when a scalding bath is not enough to keep me warm,
when I wear sweatshirts and two pairs of socks, I cradle
the hot pan in my lap and I devour every crusty morsel
intended for eight or ten or twelve, the little numbers
of the nutrition chart rising like stock prices prices in my head.
Whom do you usually eat macaroni and cheese with?
With Troy, the day I fainted and the doctor suggested
something soft. With Grandma, in Rest Haven
Nursing Home, two weeks before she died. But almost
no one lately, despite its forced mythology in grade school
and its seasonal names–the puns about elbows and tubes.
I loved it then, but it could not cover up the overcooked peas
I would not eat while the lunch room monitor stood guard.
The other kids ran off laughing to kick ball as I gagged,
scraped the tray into a bucket, and hung my head.
Please write in how many people are present
when you eat macaroni and cheese. Surely there
were a thousand in the auto-smorgasbord in Terre Haute,
where a vast sea of casseroles strolled by on conveyors.
Could the loaves and fishes have fed as many, we wondered,
dazzled into belief under buzzing fluorescents? Lean, angelic
women in hair nets and white polyester attended our needs:
snowy peaks of whipped potatoes, gurgling bogs of gravy,
and the celestial sheen of the macaroni pan, gleaming through
the crowd like a familiar planet, a storybook image of Oz.
When buying macaroni and cheese, do you buy it because
it is an . . . opiate of the complacent masses? retrograde symbol
of a simpler youth? foil to haute cuisine? savior of housewives
and bachelors? The woman at work says she swears by
Patti LaBelle’s recipe, after she made it on Oprah, the way
the Velveeta does not curdle in the oven or burn, the way Patti
honored her strong mother that day with a song, how the diva–
the divine prima donna in sequins and yards of purple tulle–put her
microphone aside, donned an apron, and got her hands and fingers
dirty making macaroni and cheese right before our very eyes.
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More poems online by Terry Kirts: