Monday, November 30, 2015

I'm sorry my letter is late this morning, but I had assorted desk obligations to sort through, finish, return, expatiate on, and/or gnash my teeth over. Then I took a shower and ran and listened to a history podcast about the weird happenings in Munster in the 1530s, a tale I'd somehow never encountered before and one that is even more skin-crawly than the Salem witch trials. Picture polygamy, theological tyranny, crazed followers, handsome weirdo leader, guts, torture, starvation, doom--only it all takes place in pre-Renaissance Germany, not in Waco, Texas. Also it involves genitals nailed to the city gates.

You'll understand when I say I'm having some difficulty retrofitting my attention to the staid task of editing an academic tome.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

I've begun rereading Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day, one of my favorite novels of all time and also one that I feature in my forthcoming reader's memoir, The Vagabond's Bookshelf. Bowen's novel never stops being strange: no matter how often I reread it, I'm startled by its syntactical contortions--its painful replication, via word order, of the characters' inner and outer troubles in blitz-era London. To sit here on Sunday morning, beside a warm stove in the cold northcountry, revisiting this odd book, is itself a dissociative experience.
* * *
from "Words and Dust," forthcoming in The Vagabond's Bookshelf
Perhaps the act of rereading is itself the only true explication of the power of literature; for after all this chatter and speculation about The Heat of the Day, I still cannot exactly explain why I return to it, why I cling to it. I never feel better when I finish the novel, never feel that I have clarified anything new about myself or the world. I have never once found myself imitating Bowen’s style. All I can pinpoint is the seriousness of her language, and serious is not really what I mean. Rather, her words are formal and somber, like an arcane dance. They bow and turn, step forward and back. They exist, like the portrait of an age exists—remote and harsh, elegant and harrowing.
 “What a terrific dust they can still raise in a mind,” in mine, at least, as they do also in the mind of poor ignorant Louie Lewis, that stray soul wandering through Bowen’s novel, bumping up against the world. “Often you say the advantage I should be at if I could speak grammar,” she laments; “but it’s not only that. Look the trouble there is when I have to only say what I can say, and so cannot ever say what it is really. Inside me it’s like being crowded to death—more and more of it all getting into me. I could more bear it if I could only say.” 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The little house is quiet now. Young people are fast asleep on couches and in bedrooms. The dog, enraptured by their presence, refuses to sleep upstairs on her everyday dog bed, cuddling as close them as she can get.

Yesterday, after my parents and my sister's family departed, all the young people decided to go for a long drive to the coast. For a few hours Tom and I puttered quietly among the holiday shreds. Then, as we were eating our dinner, headlights swept up the driveway. "They're back!" wailed Tom in mock-despair. The young people bounced into the house: they'd looked at the sea! they'd gone bowling! they'd forgotten to put gas in the tank! was there any lasagna they could eat? They flopped on chairs and tickled the cat and one-upped each other with "filming-disasters-I-have-had" and complained about Wordsworth and unearthed half a leftover pie. Carrying marshmallows and smartphone flashlights, they trooped into the darkness to build a bonfire. "Tomorrow," cried James, "tomorrow I will take your author photo!"

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving dinner in the wood shop

Thursday, November 26, 2015


from "Why I Might Go to the Next Football Game" by Denis Johnson

                                              i thought
that i would make a fine football-playing
poet, but now i know
it is better to be an old, breathing

man wrapped in a great coat in the stands, who
remains standing after each play, who knows
something, who rotates in his place
rasping over and over the thing

he knows: “whydidnhe pass? the other
end was wide open! the end
was wide open! the end was wide open . . . ”

* * *

from These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The wind was blowing, but not too hard, and everyone was so happy and gay for it was only twenty degrees below zero and the sun shone.

* * *

from "Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons" by Diane Wakoski

The relief of putting your fingers on the keyboard,
as if you were walking on the beach
and found a diamond
as big as a shoe;

* * *

from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

But Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Under moonlight last night the crust of snow on the grass glittered the way water does in a sheltered cove--just the faintest shiver of motion. Yet really there was no movement, no change, no shiver. I wonder why eyes are so prone to invention.

Now, in these moments before sunrise, the world has gone dark, and the temperature has fallen to ten degrees. In the little house a red blur flickers against the window of the woodstove. Two clocks tick out of rhythm.

The house is so quiet now, but later today it will overflow with noise and bustle--my parents, my sister and her husband, my young nephews, my smiling college boy and his friend, my giant high school boy, the happy old dog, the shocked young cat. I will cook and Tom will play records. Dark will close in on us again, and I will forget to look at the moon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In case you missed it the first time around: Vox Populi has reprinted my recent blog post, "Dear Presidential Candidates: A Modest Proposal." It's funny how well that post went over. As I told you before, it's by far the most-read post on this blog, and I wonder how it will do among a larger readership.

* * *

My friend Maureen mailed me a beautiful letterpress chapbook of Joe Bolton's poem cycle Breckinridge County Suite, recently released by Tavern Books in Portland, Oregon. I have read these poems before (they are included in The Last Nostalgia), but seeing them in this format is surprising and, for some reason, very moving. You know how much I love Bolton's work, but I haven't often concentrated on the shape of his poems. Now this version is pressing me to consider their visual arrangement as an element of power. Thank you, Maureen, for such a remarkable gift.

* * *

My friend David, so prescient and patient with words, sent me this picture from Canada: "Tonight taking out the recycle, a jet vapour trail in the night sky. It looks like the ghost of one, but just above it the pinpoint of light of a star, and for a moment this little geometry in the sky is not clinical but warm and lovely, imperfect in its bending as it fades. A delicate thing."

* * *

from "I Walk Out into the Country at Night" by Lu Yu, translated by Kenneth Rexroth

I come home late. The night
Is half spent. I stand for a
Long while in the doorway.
My young son is still up, reading.
Suddenly he bursts out laughing,
And all the sadness of the
Twilight of my life is gone.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving dinner is at my house this year. Eleven people will cram themselves into my hot little kitchen, and I am so pleased. The crowd will include meat eaters, vegetarians, adults who don't like adventurous food, adults who love adventurous food, and fussy children.

Much as I enjoy making desserts, I decided to assign that job to my guests. Pies and cookies are easy to transport but take a lot of extra planning in a kitchen with only one oven. So I am focusing only on the savory part of the holiday.

Yesterday I made two kinds of small dinner rolls: one plain wheat-rye sourdough, the other a sourdough base mixed with pecans, currants, and dried cranberries. They went into the freezer, and I'll thaw them before dinner on Thursday.

Next on the make-ahead list is a good strong vegetable stock. The turkey will be the only meat item. I want the vegetarians to be able to enjoy everything else, including the gravy.

You'll notice I mentioned turkey: Tom and I wanted to have Cornish hens but couldn't find them in the local stores. So turkey it is--a smallish bird, roasted with lots of garlic and rosemary.

Cornbread is another make-ahead item: I've always wanted to make cornbread stuffing, and I found a lovely recipe that includes chopped prunes and apricots flavored with fennel seeds.

The vegetarian main dish will be whole-wheat lasagna with goat cheese, zucchini, and fresh tomatoes.

As side dishes, I've settled on beets in pistachio butter; twice-baked potatoes with scallions and parmesan; cranberry relish with apples, oranges, and ginger; and an as-yet-to-be named green vegetable . . . possibly Brussels sprouts, possibly a spinach salad.

Meanwhile, Tom is making a table big enough to seat everyone. Whether or not it will fit into the tiny room is another question.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The End of the Season

Dawn Potter

I drive into the dark.
The World Series sputters on the radio.
In the backseat my son weeps
and a girl holds his hand.

It is late autumn.
The eyes of cats glint along the roadside.
Jagged clouds frame the setting sun.
The sky is a riot of colors—lemon, salmon, plum—

and now soccer season is over.
The winners have taken their victory laps across the field.
Our losers have scattered into cars,
stunned and deflated.

Startled sparrows fly up from the grass
as my car rattles westward.
Chimney smoke threads from window-lit capes,
from tidy ranches and collapsing trailers.

at the strike of a shovel,
the earth will ring like a tamped bell—
muffled, ironbound.

The season is over.
My son weeps in the backseat
and a girl,
dear tender apprentice of love,

quietly holds his hand.
Oh, the small tragedies.
In the moments we live them,
they are blacker than roads.

[first published in Cardinal Flower Journal (September 2015)]

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cold rain is pounding roofs, spattering windows, puddling up in dips and hollows, threading quick rivers down the glossy asphalt.

The cat lazes in a chair by the fire. The kitchen is scented with coffee and toast.

And I am thinking of the poems of Betsy Sholl, especially this one, which broke my heart when she read it aloud last night.
from Prisoner Bonhoeffer 
Executed April 9, 1945, Flossenburg Concentration Camp 
Better be wordless, he thinks, better Bach's swell
and diminuendo, cantus firmus, not quite drowned out 
as notes rise and fall, until--is this it?-- 
the rising and falling are one, God in the midst,
not on some edge beyond, but in--

[from Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014)]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

* Tonight, Betsy Sholl and Lee Hope are reading at Common Street Arts in downtown Waterville, 7 p.m. Come down if you can. Betsy is a former poet laureate of Maine and an all-around wonderful poet and friend of poetry. Lee is a fiction writer who formerly directed the Stonecoast MFA program and is now editor-in-chief of the Solstice Literary Magazine.

* I am glumly watching local teenagers snipe at each other on Facebook. The fact that they are arguing about Syrian refugees does not make me feel any better.

* This morning, the daybreak sky was a matte lavender and the ground was a pulsating orange. The air between them was fraught but still. The overall effect was ominous, like a tornado warning. And then everything faded to drab.

* * *

Laura looked at Pa, who was greasing his boots. His mustaches and his hair and his long brown beard were silky in the lamplight, and the colors of his plaid jacket were gay. He whistled cheerfully while he worked, and then he sang:
"The birds were singing in the morning,
And the myrtle and the ivy were in bloom,
And the sun o'er the hills was a-dawning,
'Twas then that I laid her in the tomb."
It was a warm night. The fire had gone to coals on the hearth, and Pa did not build it up. All around the little house, in the Big Woods, there were little sounds of falling snow, and from the eaves there was the drip, drip of the melting icicles.

--Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods

* * *

Strong women
know the taste
of their own hatred
I must always be
building nests
in a windy place

--Audre Lorde, "Portrait"

* * *

Cher shopped for clothes to escape the pressure of our uncertain career.

--Sonny Bono, And the Beat Goes On

* * *

Great fame can be obtained
By routing an army
With oxen carrying
Burning straw on their horns.
But after all, it is
No more important than
The tracks of sandpipers.

--Lu Yu, "Autumn Thoughts," trans. Kenneth Rexroth

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Live from Doughty Hill

In this cut from Doughty Hill's October show at the Wayside Theater in Dexter, Maine, guitarist Brian Smith and I are performing the Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide." The sound balance is a bit off (it was recorded from the back of the hall), but you get the idea. One difficult aspect about this version is the key: in order to accommodate both my vocal range and the size of Brian's hands, we've ended up playing it in F sharp, which may be the worst of all possible keys for the violin--little natural resonance and extremely clumsy fingering. That accounts for the very plain fiddle lead.

Our drummer, Dan Sharrow, is gradually putting up other songs from this show on YouTube. Check them out, if you're interested. Here's what we sound like when we're all playing together. This is "The Lost Child," an original song by Sid Stutzman that retells the story of a local tragedy.

And finally, here's a Leadbelly cover: "Built for Comfort."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Last night Tom and I went to a showing of Werner Herzog's 1972 film Aguirre, Wrath of God at the Waterville Opera House. I had seen it before but never on the big screen, and the experience was even more frightening and glorious and dream-like than I had remembered. Has any film actor ever been more terrifying than Klaus Kinski? Is any opening sequence more beautiful than the conquistadors and their slaves toiling down the side of an Andean mountain, in full regalia? Beautiful and bewildering and wretched. And dangerous. The whole movie feels like disaster waiting to happen--not just in the plot but in the filmmaking itself. If Kinski doesn't kill you, the Amazon will.

Monday, November 16, 2015

I got up yesterday morning, stacked some firewood, and then changed clothes and headed off with the rest of my band members to perform at a wedding on the coast. It was a large and elaborate wedding, in a beautiful building overlooking the sea, and the affair was a strange contrast to my sadness about Paris and Beirut and Syria, and my preoccupation with helping Tom get the firewood finished before the snows arrive, and negotiating a last-minute college application snafu, and dealing with the too-much editing I have to do and the not-enough groceries in my house. I began to wonder how a mind can hold so many levels of worry without self-destructing, but then I began to play music, and the muscle memory stepped in and blithely did its work.

The body rescues the mind.

Go for a long uphill walk in the cloudy cold. Stack firewood. Sing.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Little Boy Lost

William Blake

Father, father, where are you going
O do not walk so fast.
Speak father, speak to your little boy
Or else I shall be lost,

The night was dark no father was there
The child was wet with dew.
The mire was deep, & the child did weep
And away the vapour flew.


Blake is the king of prophets, so long as I am prepared to receive the answer I don't want or will never accept. This is the kind of poem that leads people to hanging witches or drowning in bogs. And yet, of course, it is a terrible honesty. That "vapour." Where does it fly now?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Till April in Paris,
Who can I run to?
What have you done
To my heart?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Well, yesterday's presidential satire has turned out be the most popular post in this blog's history. The fascinations of poetry cannot compete with the fascinations of dystopian politics. Shall we laugh or cry?

Wordsworth will tell us what to do:
A poet!—He hath put his heart to school,
Nor dares to move unpropped upon the staff
Which art hath lodged within his hand—must laugh
By precept only, and shed tears by rule. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dear Presidential Candidates: A Modest Proposal

Dear presidential candidates:

Yesterday morning, my 18-year-old son came up with a brilliant proposal for campaign reform. He and I spent much of our day together elaborating its details; and although the concept is still flawed and incomplete, we nonetheless believe that you should consider its advantages to both your development as sentient human beings and your credibility with the voters.

My son's proposal is that every candidate for president should spend one month working and living in an environment that is nothing like anywhere he or she has lived before. The goal is to introduce each of you to a segment of humanity that you have overlooked or derided and to put you into the uncomfortable position of (1) not being great at your job, (2) being around people with a different skill set, and (3) finding out what it's like to live with very little money and very few resources.

To that end, my son and I have come up with suggested destinations for several of the candidates.

Donald Trump. You will spend the month in Mississippi working as a farm laborer and living in housing for migrant workers. Other people will be telling you what to do, and you will do it. Also, you will get blisters and a sunburn and be tired and dirty all the time. Let us know if the wages are too high.

Bernie Sanders. You will spend the month working as a waiter at a Denny's in a Phoenix strip mall. Your job is to stop hollering at people and to bring them more coffee. If they order bacon, let them. Your feet will hurt, but you will still have to smile.

Ted Cruz. Much as I dislike you, I am inviting you to my own hometown in rural central Maine. You will get a series of small seasonal jobs: chainsawing in the woods, driving the plow truck in snowstorms, cutting tips for Christmas wreaths, working on cars, etc., etc. You will live in a trailer and have trouble keeping warm. So if you want to eat or buy heating oil, you'll have to figure out how to get someone to hire you. That requires civility, by the way.

Carly Fiorina. You will spend the month living in a refugee enclave in a small working-class city--say, Manchester, New Hampshire. No one around you will speak your language or share any of your customs. You will have to figure out how to communicate with them as you work the nightshift at the local convenience store.

Mike Huckabee. You will spend the month living in a Bronx shelter and working for a social-service organization focusing on homeless youth. Let us know later if paying you a pittance to roam the streets in search of terrified kids who need dinner and some blankets was a pointless waste of government dollars.

Hillary Clinton. You will spend the month as a stay-at-home housewife in a working-class neighborhood in the midwest--say, somewhere outside of Toledo. You will be alone all day, without control of your checkbook and responsible for nothing beyond cleaning the house and preparing budget meals. The TV will be permanently set to soap operas. What will it be like to be completely powerless?

Chris Christie. You will spend the month on a reservation, perhaps in South Dakota. Probably you won't be able to find a job, so you'll just have to hang out in your crumbling government-issue housing. But at least you'll have plenty of time to think about what it's like to be crushed and forgotten.

Of course, some candidates require more basic interventions. Jeb Bush needs to enter the Witness Protection Program and learn what it feels like not to be a Bush. Ben Carson needs to enroll in any accredited 9th-grade college-prep program. And there are some overlaps. I feel that Marco Rubio and Rand Paul would both benefit from the Clinton or Huckabee treatments. Perhaps they could try out equivalent programs in desert Nevada and urban Fresno. Marco Rubio as powerless housewife has much potential. And it is always a good idea to make Rand Paul wallow in some "unnecessary" government spending.

Each candidate will receive a cheap cell phone loaded with a handful of minutes. If you want to use the Internet, you'll have to find a public library computer. (Does your community have a library? Is this an important resource for the working poor? Also, are libraries warm and do they have bathrooms? It would be a shame if you couldn't find a bathroom.) You will not be giving any press conferences. If you find yourself needing health care, feel free to stand in line at the emergency room. But I'm sure you'll be fine. People who work in dangerous jobs in stressful and unhealthy environments never need health care.

You owe it to the American people to show them you're tough enough to do the jobs they're already doing themselves. I look forward to the reality show.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Teachers: If you've been considering asking me to visit your school this spring, let me know. I'm starting to fill my schedule, so now is the best possible time for us to start hammering out a plan.

So far my spring-semester work includes a massive age span (kindergarten through graduate school) and will cover both poetry and prose. I'm also available for professional-development presentations--in non-teacher-speak, that means I will bring a taste of the Frost Place to you. Or we could just hang out together and read and write poems or essays and pretend that we're not teachers at all.

[In other news, I just woke up from a massive anxiety dream about my son's college application. In the dream, he accidentally submitted a school paper instead of his Common App essay, and the school paper was graded page by page: C, F, C, F, F, C, etc. Somehow, in the dream, this was all my fault. Apparently, this is how a subconscious chooses to torture a parent who is also a writing teacher.]

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The mornings are cold now. Frost glitters on windows and roofs, and the maples are bare, though leaves still cling to the apple trees. I have spent a few afternoons raking leaves and wheeling loads of them into the gardens for mulch. Now the plots have assumed a funereal tidiness. Only kale and arugula and mache are still thriving; even the sage, staple of my autumn kitchen, is tiring.

I should be thinking about making Emily Dickinson's black cake. I should be planning Thanksgiving dinner because I'm longing to do something different. Away with the tedious mashed potatoes. I'm even toying with the idea of replacing the turkey. Why should holidays be so predictable? Maybe I'll roast a batch of Cornish game hens. We could think of them as personal turkeys.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Granny Has a Vision (2003)

Dawn Potter 

Against the bloodbeat, against the necrotic
pang, against the eyeless house,

you steady yourself.
The silverware in the drawer

speaks your language—
            the only language you hear today

            inside the glistening mirage
your distractions have concocted:

A bridge is wet with river water, wet with tears.
The cherries bend low to listen.

Their branches strain against the small
wind of your thoughts, the jumbled

meaningless words, the old scents and computations.
Once again, nothing known as love understands you—

you, the soiled puppet queen, reeking of sorrow,
flapping your royal nail-bitten hands

on an island of rats, on an island
where only the kitchen knives speak.

[From Chestnut Ridge, a verse-history of southwestern Pennsylvania; first published in Cardinal Flower Journal (September 2015).]

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I spent most of yesterday raking leaves, mulching the garden, and unloading firewood. This morning my band is playing up at Stutzmans' Cafe in Sangerville, but then I'll be back to mulching and raking and unloading. Tiny golden tamarack needles will float in the currents, and a cold breath will rise from the ground. The cat will lurk among the log piles and the joyful dog will skip down the path ahead of the wheelbarrow. Two bluejays will argue over the birdfeeder. A crushed white mushroom will reveal its mysterious yellow heart.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Yesterday's visit to the Waterville Public Library involved lots of talk about big programming ideas. Everything depends on funding, of course, but no matter what happens, it is scintillating to talk to another person who cares so much about people and books and place. I came home in such a good mood with the world.

An even though the pets got me out of bed three times last night, and Ruckus brazenly yanked the Holy Bible off the bookshelf and threw it on the floor, my good mood persists. I love hepped-up conversations about "what if we tried this?" or "did you think about that?" or "yes, what a great idea, and it makes me wonder if. . . . " The word collaboration doesn't really cover the early moments of a plan, when the plan isn't even really a plan but a cluster of soap bubbles. It's my favorite part of creating curricula or programs, those dream-moments before the time and money problems clomp into the room. I always have liked blowing bubbles.

Friday, November 6, 2015

This morning I'm heading out to a meeting at the Waterville Public Library. I was invited to talk to the librarian about potential workshop ideas, which is exciting, though I don't yet know what she has in mind or what my role would entail.

I'm also prepping myself for an upcoming interview about my role as a literary community organizer . . . which is not a monicker I might choose for myself but does, in a way, encompass my guerilla forays into the schools, my writings about artistic individuality and connection, our blog reading projects, my constant fretting over the welfare of my Frost Place teachers, even, maybe, my local musical life. The question, I guess, is "What does community mean?" What are its physical boundaries? Or does it have any?

Anyway, the interviewer has asked if any of my comrades might be willing to speak with her about their reactions to my so-called community work. If you're interested in talking to her, let me know. And thanks for being so willing to share your time.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

It's been a productive week. I finished hiring the 2016 faculty for the Conference on Poetry and Teaching, and in the process I had terrific conversations with numbers of interesting people. I made good headway on two editing projects, with hopes of clearing space to read Vagabond page proofs in a week or so. I went for a long walk with a dear friend, and got a new short, short haircut that I love, And now I am listening to the three guys in my yard spread a load of gravel in my old goat barn. Believe it or not, this winter I will be parking my car in a garage. I have never even driven into a garage before.

I can't wait to tell you all about this year's conference faculty as well as some of the schedule tweaks I'll be trying out this summer. It will be exciting to do something new.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Dawn Potter

I sing the spell of your sentences,
whipping into sunlight, like clean sheets on a line.

Chunks of ice crowd the gutters,
and the snowmelt air trembles in a cloud
as sweet as the cataract in an old dog’s eye.

Oh, Age of Bronze, Age of Despair!
Let every comma cup our new breath.

[first published in Cardinal Flower Journal (September 2015)]

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Yesterday my poem "Home" was reprinted in state poet laureate Wes McNair's Take Heart poetry column. This sonnet, which is included in Same Old Story, has become one of my favorite pieces to read in public. It's brief and briny, like an olive--a good way to open or close a reading. Now that I think of it, organizing a poetry reading is rather like organizing a meal. . . .

In other yesterday news, master teacher/poet Diane Lockward kindly featured The Conversation in her monthly poetry newsletter. If you're interested in tips about books, interviews with poets, writing prompts, etc., you might also be interested in getting onto Diane's mailing list.

Otherwise, things go on apace here in Harmony. I edit manuscripts. I carry firewood. I bake bread. I read books. I fall asleep.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Northwoods Sunday Dinner

I belong to a local food coop that orders quarterly, so on Saturday morning we were able to replenish our supply of frozen organic chicken. We considered having a final-firepit-of-the-year cookout, but Sunday was rainy, so I reconfigured my dinner plans. In the meantime, it was not too rainy to haul firewood, which is what Tom spent his day doing . . . driving his truck back and forth to his various small woodyards around the property, loading it with logs, and then bringing them back to the woodshed to stack for splitting.

At one point in the afternoon, he noticed a dead ruffed grouse where there had been no grouse before. Apparently it had been hit by car in the 15 minutes between one load of logs and the next. So when I walked out of the house to help him stack, he was waving a dead bird at me.

Tom and I don't hunt, so the only time we ever have wild meat is when we hit a bird with a car or someone gives us venison. A ruffed grouse is small, and this one had been hit from behind, meaning that only the breast was intact. So it was a good thing I'd already planned a chicken dinner; the grouse would be a small added treat.

Tom hung the bird in the woodshed for a couple of hours and then, when he was done with firewood, brought it in and reduced it to one small whole skinless breast. I made a marinade of salt, black pepper, lemon juice, and garlic chunks, and poured it over the chicken thighs and the grouse breast. I let the fowl pieces sit in the marinade for a couple of hours, turning them often and trying to work the juice into the grouse breast as best I could. Grouse is much drier than chicken, and I had no bacon to wrap it in for cooking, so I was trying to tenderize it thoroughly.

After wiping the pieces dry, I browned them in grapeseed oil. Then I poured out the oil and dropped a chunk of butter into the pan, along with some chopped garlic and chopped fresh sage--both from my garden. When they were soft, I returned the fowl pieces to the pan and let them cook for about 45 minutes at low heat, covered, turning them often. When they were tender and ready to serve, I topped them with minced green onions--also from the garden

Alongside the chicken I made stuck-pot rice, a Mark Bittman recipe involving yogurt, lime juice, home-ground curry powder, and basmati rice, which ends up as a lovely yellow pilaf with a crunchy layer on the bottom. I also peeled and grated raw beets and carrots, added rice vinegar and salt and pepper, and served the mixture as a salad.

For the vegetarian family member, I made a three-egg omelet with parmesan and green onions.

It was interesting to eat the wild meat alongside the domestic meat. The chicken thighs, being dark meat anyway, were much moister and more buttery than the grouse breast was. But the grouse was nonetheless tender, with a lovely fresh flavor that is difficult to describe--not gamey, but certainly far more complicated and interesting than the chicken was. It tasted like a bird that had done something with its life.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The pets are swirling around their breakfast dishes, it's starting to rain, the Mets lost, the boy fell asleep on the couch, and I woke up so late that I felt like I've been coshed in a dark alley. I blame everything on the time change. How can skipping one little hour do so much?

Also, Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor is wearing me down. So serious! So foreboding! Such irritating romantic leads! I am longing for Shakespeare's rude mechanicals or Dickens's comic traveling actors or Trollope's silly clergymen. Instead, I get "His daughter--his favourite child--his constant playmate--seemed formed live happy in a union with such a commanding spirit as Ravenswood; and even the fine, delicate, fragile form of Lucy Ashton seemed to require the support of the Master's muscular strength and masculine character." Ugh. I hate them all. Why can't Lucy snap out of her "ooh, I'm so helpless; nice man, tell me what to think?" and be more  like Austen's Elizabeth Bennet, striding through the muddy lanes and fields to Netherfield Hall? But no. Apparently, the sign of a true lady is her ability to faint elegantly during a thunderstorm.

On the bright side: During yesterday's game as we were watching Mets relief pitcher Bartolo Colon (short, chunky, old) throw some warmup tosses, I mentioned that I thought he looked like the Frog Footman in Alice in Wonderland. Paul immediately went off on a riff about creating a two-man, Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern-like show featuring the Frog Footman (starring Colon) and the Fish Footman (starring Steve Buscemi). I can't wait to see it.