That's not sex -- it's just potatoes and gravy . . . . or, "Do these thoughts make me look fat?"


It's a wet and windy April 1 in MN today, 
and that's unfortunately not a joke.  

The kind of April day only a Minnesotan could love . . . 
because it's not snow, of course!

Definitely a day for potatoes and gravy, now that you mention it . . . but that's not why that particular delight showed up in the title.

You may remember this piece 
Hannah gave me for Christmas:

Do These Thoughts Make Me Look Fat?, Hannah Hinckley, 2010

I've been thinking about art and what it reveals, or doesn't reveal, about its maker . . . and whether those revelations can be truly understood, or even trusted, by the viewer.

These thoughts came about as a result of my Magpie Tale contribution this week (yesterday's post), which was a poem about the Mona Lisa that wasn't actually about that painting at all.  In fact, that poem popped out on a piece of scratch paper while I was busy stitching a cow (loosely identifiable as a Texas longhorn, to be exact) earlier in the week --

an illustration of the fact
that while we're in the 
kitchen making muffins, 
our minds are often busy cooking something else entirely
for dinner. 

And that's probably a puzzler for someone 
with professional training to examine . . .

I had tucked the poem away in my stash, but when I clicked over to Magpie Tales to see what the weekly prompt was . . .  and then layered those words on top of the Mona Lisa . . . I knew the two would dance perfectly together -- I was absolutely delighted by the layers of meaning that were added to my poem when superimposed on an unrelated image.

He was the keeper of her secrets --
all the bright and dark
spots she had buried deepest
he found with ease
his arms long, his fingers
in everything, nimble
and good with knots
his words carefully shaped, a ring
of old keys working their way
through rusted locks like magic

-- smh

Kinda makes you wonder about the relationship 
between the painter and the painted, doesn't it?  
Except that it wasn't written about that relationship at all . . .

It reminded me of a poetry workshop years ago at the University of Utah in which the professor wouldn't shut up about all the sexual imagery in my poem.  I was mortified.  I felt EXACTLY like Michael Bluth felt when he suddenly found himself singing "Afternoon Delight" as karaoke with his niece at the company Christmas party . . .

Because the poem was one I had brought to the workshop on a "cheat" -- hadn't had time to do anything, so I'd grabbed something old and typed it up anew (for which I guess I deserved to be punished, and was.) 

And the poem was about 
my experiences at Y Camp
as a fourth grader.

Let me assure you that the only sex going on that year at Camp Roger was probably among the counselors, and as a fourth grader, I was blissfully unaware of any such drama.

Of course, looking at it now there WAS a bit of eyebrow-raising imagery in that poem, but I assure you it was purely coincidental.

In the ensuing years, I've had to make peace with the fact that my poetry often "reeks of sex and pleasure" . . . (a line we saw years ago on a London bus stop poster advertising a play of some sort.  The line immediately lodged in our family's permanent lexicon.)

I have no explanations for this phenomenon.

I guess I'm just drawn to sensual words and images,
and if you use enough of those,

. . . potatoes and gravy can sound just like sex.  

Let's revisit my very first Magpie Tale:

Blue Willow

Something hidden.

I want to lick off drips

of gravy, love

ladled on brown

and thick, an ooze

around my meat

and the potatoes

crisp skinned

creamy fleshed and white,

a deep pair

of pockets ready to hold

whatever comes.

As I eat your pattern

is revealed --

a lovely memory

full and so satisfying.


After this one popped out (and my husband's eyes nearly popped out when he read it) I toyed briefly with the idea of writing a book of erotic food poetry. Looks like it comes pretty naturally to me, and I think there'd be a market.

Imagine what I could do with melted chocolate:
poured hot over ice cream, dripping, thick,
the slip of  its own melting, eager for the slide of the spoon . . .
got you thinking about sundaes, right?!

And maybe I just like potatoes and gravy more than most people.
But I really didn't think I had any particular affinity for YMCA Camp,
all of which which leads me to 

. . . question everything I've ever assumed 
when I looked at a piece of art.

When that poem was written, 
two people knew what it meant -- 
God and Robert Browning.  
And now God only knows . . .

 -- Robert Browning (apocryphal)

God and maybe 
the Mona Lisa.

ps. Looks like I'm a guest blogger over on TAFA today.

pps.  Yes, I had potatoes and gravy for lunch . . . (busted).



Shantel said...

LOVE It! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! If you write that peotry book, I am first in line to buy it. I have not been so tickled by a post in a long time! I am so glad we're friends.

Chelsea said...

mmmmm erotic food poetry....also a bit disturbing to read that poem again, being that you're my mother...

susan m hinckley said...

Thanks, Shantel!

And probably neither the first nor the last time your mother has embarrassed you, Chels . . .

Allie said...

ROFL - this reminds me of the line "to him who is in fear, everything rustles". Maybe it's more the mind-set of the reader than of the author!
I took your magpie tale as something quite different. A painter reveals secrets in the portrait - secrets that the person being painted might not know about themselves, that the viewer might be shocked to see.

I think your book would be a best-seller, Susan!

Leenie said...

But isn't that what makes good art and literature? Everyone brings their own experience to it. If it resonates well, it can ring a different chime for each individual. The nice part is when a lot of people feel the same music and appreciate it.

Think I'll go to the fridge and look for gravy, or ice cream--or both.

susan m hinckley said...

Love that idea, Leenie -- "the nice part is when a lot of people feel the same music . . ." Hope you found something good to eat.

Pam said...

You've got to team up with the British foodie Nigella Lawson, and while reciting your culinary poetry look up with one of those suggestive glances of hers. I'll never forget her tempting "Go on, lick the spoon - you KNOW you want to". "Rmmph" she growled as she proceeded to do just that, batting her eyelashes.
Ah, to think I just throw my spoon in the sink.

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