Still Life With Aubergines
Challenged by a writer in Ireland to use
the word aubergine in a poem, I demurred:
too fancy, too French. Americans are more earthy,
using eggplant, something hot and heavy
you can hold in your palm. You can strip off
its bruise-black skin, let it slip into something
more comfortable: a sauté pan of bubbling oil.
Let it meld into a mélange with tomatoes, onions,
zucchini. Not courgettes. Here, in Matisse’s
oils, they lounge precariously in their satin slips,
little odalisques of the table, almost sliding off
the red cloth with its cream-coloured curves.
The room pulsates in patterns, floral motifs
everywhere. The eye doesn’t know where
to look. Perspective is askew; we feel uneasy,
off-kilter. So let’s put our feet back
on solid ground and consider the eggplant.
It could be bitter if not cooked properly.
But salt it first, then simmer on low
all afternoon, releasing its sweetness,
reminding us how summer is fleeting;
reminding us our days in the sun are brief.
This poem appeared in Barbara Crooker's book, Some Glad Morning (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019.)
Barbara Crooker is the author of many books of poetry; Some Glad Morning and Les Fauves are recent. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, and she has received a number of awards, including the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships in Literature, and the Fantastic Ekphrastic award of recognition from The Ekphrastic Review for her body of art-inspired writing.
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