postcards from summer: a poem, a “cake,” and three very fine books
sometimes in summer you merely want to dip your toe into the puddles. or the very cold lake. a little of this, a little of that. summer, it seems, is by definition the season for idling. no deep exertion needed. nor called for.
and so this week, with our old house bustling, and me trying to squeeze in any minutes of writing time i can muster, we bring you a little of this, a little of that: a poem, the “world’s best” no-bake upside-down cloud of sweet summeriness, and a roundup of books for the summery soul.
first, the poem, a quiet one from mary oliver, who is something of a patron saint of this old table. one that will rustle something deep inside, perhaps, and make you think thoughts you might not have thought ever before…
Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear
anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,
nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet —
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.
From West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver. Published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. Copyright 1997 by Mary Oliver.
oh, mary, mary…
“let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine….”
in fact, that might be all the morsel you need for this day. a morsel that’s as much a prayer as a poem, in my book. truth is, the poems i love best are the ones that work as a prayer: spiraling deep down under the hard shell of the everyday numbness, stirring, rustling, awaking the sleeping bits of the soul. the bits that long to be fed, plumped, removed from their starvation diet.
“let the immeasurable come…”
have you felt the immeasurable of late, did it touch the buckle of your spine?
and because i promised, here’s the summery treat we made at our house this week. especially since our house is filled this week from our beloved friend jani from munster, in germany. jani was here five years ago, when he was 12. and he and i sat side-by-side every morning, making our books. he will be 18 next week, and he is here, working downtown, taking the train every morning and night with dear blair. we are feting him with all things americana. he claimed this, “the best dessert in the world.”
best no-bake upside-down dessert in the world* (*so says jani)
1 box belgian buttery waffle crisp cookies
2 – 3 cups whipped cream
vanilla extract, a dollop
1 pint fresh raspberries
1/2 pint fresh blackberries
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
you’ll need a loaf pan, lined in plastic wrap.
stir vanilla (or almond) extract into your bowl of whipped cream (psst: i used cool whip).
this is all about layering, so begin with a few plops of whipped cream at the bottom of your loaf pan.
next, lay down a row of belgian buttery crisps. press gently into the bed of whipped cream.
add a layer of whipped cream, dropping in dollops, and smoothing with a spatula.
add raspberries and white chocolate chips (or dark chocolate chips, or almond slices, if that more emphatically tickles your fancy).
begin again with your belgian cookie brigade, then whipped cream, then more berries and white chocolate chips. repeat one or two more times, till you’ve reached the tippy-top of your loaf pan. then begin your berry art. i made a flag, or an impressionist rendition thereof…..have at it.
cover with plastic wrap, and tuck in the fridge for eight to 12 hours. theoretically you flip the stacked loaf onto a serving plate (thus, the plastic wrap lining the loaf pan), but i didn’t think about that when i went with my flag, so we served flag side up, and jani didn’t seem to mind. there were two slices left for the very next day. and jani proclaimed it even better after its long night’s nap in the fridge.
and finally, as promise, the latest roundup of books for the soul. my latest assignment from the chicago tribune. this time: Islamic Jesus, Jewish holidays, and exquisite poems infused with Chassidic sensibilities.
so there you go. do as summer insists: savor these lazy days. and if so inclined, tap out your thoughts to the question above, the one about the immeasurable. or share your favorite no-bake summery sweetness. or the books whose pages you’re turning these steamy days of july….