I love "Furious Cooking," which is the title poem of Maureen Seaton's book that won the 1995 Iowa Poetry Prize. After reading "Furious Cooking" I decided to write a poem in the same manner-- after three revisions this morning, I like the status of my poem. Anyway, here is Seaton's poem:
It's the kind of cooking where before you begin
you dump the old beef stew down the toilet
and flush it thinking, good, watching
gravy splatter on the shiny white tiles.
Where the chicken spread-eagled on the butcher block
could be anyone and you don't even bother to say
thanks for your life, chicken, or regret the way
the little legs remind you of just that.
Where the bay leaves aren't eased in but thrown
voila into sizzling olive oil which
burns the poulet nicely along with the onions
alerting the fire alarm and still you think,
good, let the landlord worry I'll burn this bitch down.
It's the kind of cooking that gives your family
agita, big Italian-style pain, even if it's only
fricasee the way your Nana used to make it.
She was so pissed she painted her kitchen ceiling red!
Remember the Irish soda-break chicken and all those
green veggies in heavy cream your poor mother
yelled so loud about, oh, the calories! Furious
cooking, the kind where hacking the pollo
to bits with no names, you look up to see the windows
steamed like a hothouse. In fact, it's so hot
you strip to bare skin and now you're cooking mad
and naked in just that bartender's smock with the screw
you'd like to stick into some big cork right now.
Cooking everyone can smell from the street. What
the fuck, they say, and hurry home to safe food, yours
a rank hint of ablution and sacrifice, although
no one recognizes the danger. I used to wonder
about the Portuguese woman on the first floor,
what that odor was that drifted up on Saturdays
into my own savory kitchen. How it permeated
Sunday and Monday as well, all that lethal food left
to boil on her big stove from the old country.
Now I know she was just furious cooking, that aroma was
no recipe you'd find in any country, a cross between
organs and feathers and spinal fluid and two eyes,
not to mention the last song in that chicken's throat
before it kicked the bucket in the snow in the prime
of life when all of it ever wanted you could etch on a dime
and spin blithely into a crack in the kitchen table.
~ Maureen Seaton
from FURIOUS COOKING, University of Iowa Press