Food Poetry: Recipe. A Cento*, by Karen Resta
after Billy Collins
You are the soup and the fish,
the buttered crumpet and the tea.
You are the cook at the brothel’s stove
and the bubbling beans in the pot.
You are the great eater of the beef,
and the lobster trembling for life.
However, you are not the cheese of the poet,
the hell of the spinach,
or the apples of Eve.
And you are certainly not the Quangle Wangle’s tree.
There is just no way that you are the Quangle Wangle’s tree.
It is possible that you are the sauce to dress the goose,
maybe even the restaurant in Baudelaire’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the grape of Beulah at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the fat of the child-pig
nor the past alive as madeleine.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the corn who’s better than sex.
I also happen to be the hencod’s roe,
the small green face of the freshly shelled green pea,
and the hunger for fried fish in the open air.
I am also the parsley that is gharsley
and the goblin’s cry of fruits.
But don’t worry, I’m not the soup and the fish.
You are still the soup and the fish.
*Lines from Sydney Smith, J.C. Masterman, Polly Adler, Martial’s Epigrams, William Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, G.K. Chesterton, E.B. White, Lord Byron, Edward Lear, Alice B.Toklas, Baudelaire, Mae West, Charles Lamb, Proust, E.S. Gaskell, Garson Keillor, James Joyce, William Wallace Irwin, Mark Twain, Ogden Nash, Rosetti.
This poem was previously published in Best American Poetry.
Karen Resta has had an interesting career history, one part as Executive Chef for Partners Dining at Goldman Sachs in NYC, and another as VP for Goldman Sachs NYC. Her writing can be found at eGullet, The Culinary Media Network, Serious Eats, Book of Rai, Christian Science Monitor, One Million Stories and Rose Red Review.