Recipes

She seldom reads poetry,
so when I saw from behind the couch
shapes on her glowing page
like short-line free verse
followed by, what? a prose poem?
suppressed enthusiasm bubbled forth
and I rushed to her side to read
a recipe.

Hiding disappointment, feigning interest,
as I sat, read, and thought
I saw for the first time this artifact
for what it had been all along:
a script for performance art,
like Yoko Ono’s wall of instructions,
ingredients combined with style and joy,
life-sustaining optimism for the future,
realized and evolving
through a series of interpretive performances—
Martha Graham improvising Jules Feiffer —
that culminate in grand presentation,
the audience eating
the essence and the substance of the play,
destroying the production, chewing the scenery,
a vanishing act at best, a wreck
of leftovers strewn about the stage,
the theater dark, but the show going on,
its true venue the palate and mind of the diner,
it’s inner value satisfying
the gut, feeding the muscles, moving blood,
as the play takes place in eye, ear, and mind
but lives on in hearts, souls, and memories.

Recipes are not from scratch.
Long did people cook and eat
before they were derived—
the oldest cuneiform
a recipe for beer—
yet they are not about the past.
Like so much else we cook up
recipes’ worth is flavors yet to be,
changed, adopted and adapted,
abandoned and rediscovered,
bequeathed and inherited,
the transubstantiation of their scripture
the body of our future.