Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Should an Apple Pie Appear in a Poem?

I'm almost always afraid to put a rose in a poem because roses have been appearing in poems since about 5,000 B.C.E., or thereabouts. I make an exception when I'm writing explicitly about actually growing roses because then I have a chance of staying away from the usual symbolism, which can be religious, or romantic, or whatever.

I feel similarly about putting an apple pie in a poem. From a poetic perspective, apple pies are . . . what? Too domestic? Too "home-spun"? And then there's the unholy trinity of mom, applie pie, and the American flag. Oy.

So I guess if you write a poem that's based in some way in experience, and if the experience had something to do with baking or eating an apple pie, you're out of luck. You should probably just write a poem about something else or maybe use a different kind of dessert. That would be the smart thing to do.

I decided not to be prudent, however, and I decided to go ahead and write a poem with an apple pie in it. I don't think I entirely escaped the pitfalls of doing so, and I probably made things worse by including "love" along with the apple pie. Oh, well. So it goes with baking and with writing. Trial and error, with lots of error.

Not that you asked, but I prefer apple pies to be very light on the sugar (or the Splenda); indeed, I believe all fruit or berry pies should be tart. I believe this preference places me in a minority. I am also very much in favor of a tradition on the verge of disappearing: serving a piece of sharp cheddar cheese with a piece of pie. No, not vanilla ice cream; cheddar cheese.

Waking to Baking

My love for you
is but for you, just
like the only apple
pie of its kind, the one
I baked that day:
butter-brushed crust
just so, narrow streams
of sweet steam piping
out of vents in the top-
crust opened with a
nicked tip of a paring-
knife. Yes, my love
for you is precisely
combined like cinammon,
nutmeg, and lemon-peel--
a sparing use of sugar,
apples picked, peeled,
and cut by no other hands
but these, pieces of apple
floating in cold water
that day, that hour, the
oven pre-heating, which
is another name for heating.
You napped. You awoke
to a house inebriated with
aroma of baking apple pie,
an affection-imbued interior
weather of heat applied
to fruit, flour, and spices.

Hans Ostrom, Copyright 2008
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