"The party's almost over...."

Basil from the Lindner-St. Amant garden
On the very last day before my school year begins, here's a wistful poem by my friend Barbara Crooker:

Late August

So already, everything's starting to turn,
grackles crocheting their raggedy
scarves that trail for miles, snap beans
rusting and brown, tomatoes still pulsing
yellow stars in the hope that they'll swell
round and red before frost shuts down
their production lines.  Right now, we can still dry
them in the sun, pack them in oil, or slowly
roast them with garlic and thyme.
But nothing beats this sweetness in August,
hot and heavy with juice and seeds.  Slice
them in rounds, shuffle with mozzarella,
add basil's anise nip, drizzle with the kiss
of olio di oliva, a dark splash of balsamic,
the sprinkled grit of sea salt.  The circles ring the plate,
diminishing O's.  We know the party's almost over,
the sun's packing up its bags.  Listen to the crows
outside the cold window: gone gone gone.

I love this poem's music, and the precision with which it looks at the world--a cut up tomato as "diminishing O's," and sea salt as "sprinkled grit."  I also love how it celebrates the ebbing of summer's bounty and beauty, combining gusto with just a twinge of sadness.  Finally, I love that this poem is also a recipe.  If my own garden tomatoes hadn't been such a bust this summer, I'd be rounding up the last few and shuffling them with some mozzarella right this second.

To learn more about Barbara Crooker's poetry, check out her web page.  And here's a link to Gold, her new book.


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