Friday, July 14, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Mac and Cheese

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Faruk AteĊŸ

Dear Mac and Cheese,

I’ve got to hand it to you,
you perfected the whole dissemblance thing.
I mean, it was flat-out brilliant
disguising yourself in that box for all these years,
allowing generations of beginning (or lazy) cooks
to transform dust and rocks
into a creamy bowl of comfort.
Box-made, your color is, though, disturbingly unnatural.
Not quite the orange of the namesake fruit
nor of a winter sky at sunset.
Neither oriole nor monarch.
Not autumn or amber.
Perhaps closest to road gang prison uniform,
a subtle hint to alert the most observant cooks that
the box is actually a trap.
Half a lifetime of cooking wasted, spent colorblind and imprisoned,
I’m free now, and so are you.
I’ve grated a big mound of cheddar and American,
mixed in noodles, poured on cream, baked until crunchy on top.
We’ve escaped, and nothing can stop us from moving on
to smoked gouda, bacon, fresh peas, and a crisp panko topping.
Your palette is now my palate.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Sincerely, Mac and Cheese

I know I cannot erase the facts:
they will grow up motherless;
he will be achingly lonely.

Stir into me the courage of a wooden spoon,
bake me with a searing love,
deliver me to be eaten one spoonful at a time,

the same way a vast grief must be consumed.
This is all you can do.
This is all I can do.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

My mentor text for these two poems was David Hernandez's book, Dear, Sincerely. His poem, "Sincerely, the Sky" was featured recently on The Writer's Almanac. I loved it so much that in a rare move, I clicked through to his book on Amazon. After a peek inside the book, I knew I wanted to own it.

There are 10 Dear or Sincerely poems in the book. I took the conversational tone of my first poem from Hernandez's "Dear Death." My sincerely poem is most like his "Sincerely, Paper Gown."

Poetry Friday Peeps are celebrating National Mac and Cheese Day, which is today, July 14! Be sure to visit the roundup at Tabatha's The Opposite of Indifference for more yummy and cheesy Poetry Friday posts!

(In breaking news -- and a total buzzkill for the national holiday -- macaroni and cheese from a box is dangerous for your health.)


  1. Anonymous6:38 AM

    What a fabulous form - and I love how you've teamed it, to do the two. I'm a homemade Mac&Cheese kinda gal - though we don't have 'American' cheese - and I remember being horrified by the colour of your cheeses when I visited many (many, MANY) years ago. Orange cheese!? It looked so wrong! :P

    Both of these are great - but I love the layers that you've folded into that Sincerely one. So very well done!

  2. Anonymous6:50 AM

    I love both of your poems, Mary Lee. I also feel like I spent "half a lifetime of cooking wasted" cooking like my mother and grandmothers. That being said, I still prefer my mother's mac & cheese recipe, Velvetta and all. I was struck by "Sincerely, the Sky" last week, too. Thank you for sharing more of David Hernandez's work.

  3. So many interesting takes on macaroni and cheese this week! Some of my favorite lines include "We’ve escaped, and nothing can stop us from moving on" and "bake me with a searing love."

  4. Now I want mac and cheese!

  5. Double tour de force, ML--the clever play with shades of orange (road gang prison uniform ---> colorblind and imprisoned ---> escaped now), and the simple admission of grief ("Stir into me the courage of a wooden spoon" swoon). I'll check out the Hernandez book.

    Are they meant to go together?


    1. They only go together in my mind and experience. I made homemade mac and cheese for the first time ("Dear Mac and Cheese" to take to my former student's family after her mother died suddenly earlier this summer ("Sincerely, Mac and Cheese").

    2. Yes, the pain feels very fresh and tender.

  6. Wow, I love what you did with his poem, and I loved his Sincerely, the Sky when I clicked over. I want to do something with my brokenness, now. Perhaps love it better than I have done. And perhaps celebrate by painting. Don't we all have some brokenness? Great poems, Mary Lee. I loved them, form, content and endings. I like that last image of eating grief like mac n cheese. What else can we do? Other than make art.

  7. Weird happening: I am writing to you and the words just vanished. ARe you conjuring up some magic spells with your mac and cheese delights? Thanks for the great duo of poems and the links. Just finished a healthy breakfast while drooling over the mac and cheese recipes and poems. Have a great day, Mary Lee.

  8. The neat thing about these two poems is that I want to read them more than once.
    Thank you.

  9. So true - that box is a trap. A single serving of delight.

  10. Ha! How fun.....the orange of a prison jumpsuit! lol. You must have had fun with this one. Bring on the gouda!

  11. Well I did not expect that second poem after reading the first (which made me laugh aloud--I always thought the color was ground up cheetos. Where does that color come from? Who knows...) So many wonderful lines...I am moved by "bake me with a searing love/deliver me to be eaten one spoonful at a time." I guess that defines comfort food.

  12. Love your twist on the mac and cheese Mary Lee, they've escaped and no telling how far and wonderful the transforming journey will become!

  13. You told that ole blue box a thing or two. I love the end when you make plans to move on to even gouda with bacon added. Can I have some of that please? Thanks for the form reference. I am always on the look out for ideas.

  14. I figure that everyone should have some vices, just to make life more interesting, and since I don't smoke or drink, I might as well eat processed foods every once in a while! ;-)

  15. That second one - I have such a lump in my throat, I don't think I'll be swallowing.

    Also, the baked with cream and shredded cheese sounds so good right now...

  16. Wow - this does offer quite the emotional spectrum. Kudos on both poems!
    "Stir into me the courage of a wooden spoon" - beautiful. So sorry to read of such a loss in your response to Heidi. I'm sure the family could taste the kindness you baked into a nourishing meal.

  17. Mary Lee, these are fabulous! That first one feels like a Billy Collins poem. Love! "Perhaps closest to road gang prison uniform," Ha! And that second poem. Oh, that second poem. Thank you for these. Going to check out that book right now!

  18. I agree with Robyn, your two poems do offer the emotional spectrum. Well done.

  19. What a great strategy and form! Poor mac-n-cheese. I feel so sorry for him!

  20. I love both these poems. And thank you for sharing the mentor text. This sounds like a book I want to check out.

  21. Once again, I am blown away by your brilliance. Not one, but two mac and cheese poems. And then you use a poet I have never have of as a mentor. Because you said you had done it, I clicked through and read David Hernandez' sky poem. His last line. Wow.

    I love the color images in your first poem. And then those last few lines. I really do love that cheap and now apparently unhealthy orange Kraft stuff, mixed with applesauce. But Kadeem has taken recently, to trying new recipes. His most recent included crab, lobster, and shrimp, and cost about $25 to make!

    Your second poem reminds me of Ralph Fletcher's quote from FIG PUDDING, “When someone you love dies, you get a big bowl of sadness put down in front of you, steaming hot. You can start eating now, or you can let it cool and eat it bit by bit later one. Either way, you end up eating the whole thing. There's really no way around it.”

    Thanks, as always, for your dedication to your craft. I learn so much fro you!

  22. "Smoked gouda, bacon, fresh peas, and a crisp panko topping"?? I'm coming to YOUR house for dinner!


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