Monday, September 26, 2016

New Poems For Publication

I plan to continue posting new poems on this blog, but I've started a new poetry project I intend to submit to others for publication. The poems in this project about the Cuban Missile Crisis will not appear on this blog unless I've given up hope of publishing one or more of them. This plan may lead to a few parts of the project appearing here and other parts elsewhere depending on editorial interest and how the project develops.

If any parts appear elsewhere, I will post the news here. I don't expect to publish anything from the project here for at least a year.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Random Comment About Fake Bacon

Vegetarianism comes with the possibility of better health, a sense of ethical activity and a menu that sometimes includes fake meat.

If fake meat had a bone, it would be one to throw to the reluctant vegetarian who misses meat very much and resents a diet of rabbit food. Presumably a thorough vegetarian or vegan would find it nauseating to simulate and eat a food that is, after all, a carcass. I'm reminded of a reform Buddhists made to human sacrifice rituals when they altered the culture of Tibet. Instead of a real human body, compassionate monks substituted a fake one made of dough and other substances that not only simulated the body's outward form but also internal organs. Celebrants ate the ersatz corpse, the ritual was preserved and no one was harmed in the process. Was this the advent of fake meat? Probably not, but the product keenly reminds us of artificial meat's function.

These days presumably no one goes to the supermarket hoping to ward off urges of cannibalism by buying fake human corpses, but there are fake chicken patties, pork cutlets, barbecued backs, link sausages and the like for conventional meat lovers to choose from. When I was a boy my mother introduced me to these products out of a concern for my family's health. I really hated the stuff then, and even though I still dislike fake meat I can today say with an almost living historical perspective that the products have improved a bit since then. A perusal of a vegetarian cookbook from the late 19th century obsessed with mock meats fashioned from egg bases shows just how far the simulated meat business has progressed in a little over a hundred years.

I'm just enough of a vegetarian that no matter how good the simulation I suffer from a revulsion to the uncanny resemblance to flesh. Besides this, there's still a sneaking chemical flavor that builds up as one nibbles away at most fake meats. In the 70s this chemical taste was at the forefront. Now, not as much. Anyway, I dislike the stuff and have found that a vegetable product such as tempeh, which does not pretend to be meat, stands very nicely in the place of meat without reminding me of it or making me think of chemical compounds.

But there is one glowing exception I find in the fake meat world, and that would be Morningstar's artificial bacon. Eating this fake bacon I'm not constantly comparing it to real bacon and thinking it falls short. It stands so far apart from real bacon that it does not remind of meat in any unsettling way, but, like tempeh, it occupies the space of the meat serving very nicely. The product is smoky and light and goes well with eggs--if you still eat those. This evaluation comes from someone who is not enough of a vegetarian to quit enjoying real bacon now and then.

Yet this fake bacon turns out to be an exception that proves a rule for me. I don't think of Morningstar's product as a bacon substitute so much as a vegetarian food that is okay. My wish for vegetarian cuisine is not that it try to emulate meat in its more protein rich options, but that it create new products that are high in complete protein and owe nothing to the texture and taste of meat.  Tofu, tempeh and seitan (with less success in the protein department) have so far led the way as processed vegetarian entrees. Why not more such products?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pieces of a Key West Album

That flash was a wave,
   and the green palm blade...
these separate images sealed
   in high gloss paper,
if we could bring them together,
   what might we rescue?

In memory and in thin light
   you stand. The shadows of an afternoon
run across a dry gray deck.
There's a half smile and your long,
   black hair. That's our first meeting.
There's another image at the end--
   I no longer know how often I return to it--
where your eyes narrow with decision,
and your body half turns away.
You realize. Your foot already begins
   its first step back into the light you emerged from,
back to the place where you will vanish.
I offer no words, no touch. What do you offer
   to someone who is right?

Why do I bother to say the wave and the palm frond
   will not hold together?
They only ever made an island that's gone
no matter how much of it I assemble now,
no matter how many window frames,
no matter the fired brick flags that pave
   the back door to the gate you walked through.
I can carefully join it all into a perfect world
neither of us live in today.

I have watched us too, wandering
among the memorials of the island's citizens,
their names that stones recall
   though a mile out to sea the light flares
a thousand times on water
   and on iron fences of these graves
a frond will rasp.
The palm and the wave
   are together just as you vanish again
   and again I offer nothing to your parting.
I drop the hand that would have touched you.
I stop the lips that would have said the same tired word again.

We no longer have a place to rest,
not even among a grave of palms
with their small red flowers,
nor among the waves.
There's a boat out there
in the brilliance
and among the countless.
How it appears and disappears!
It falls between swells and rises
among waves that have gone on running,
among them where we can no longer be found.