Windy, with mottled gray
and white clouds, and a muddy
yellow smudge for sun: as in
a fingerpainting—and a siskin’s
sharp-edged note to peel the first
layer of morning away from darker
dark. Here, too, I tense and quicken
toward what might haul and bear
me over from the depths. Up
from the underground cistern,
the bucket pitches and sways;
above, that patch of sky
and the wind’s wide hands,
writing and rewriting
what the day might be.
High winds stir the trees like surf.
The racket they make is counterpoint
to the quiet I want to make in my heart.
There, a dead branch crashes
every few minutes. But yes—
even there, birds forage: their small
hungers, twittering like blue
flames in the birches.
There you are again, hollering
just for the company of the echo.
There you are wearing my genes,
& hollow-eyed from insomnia, the family curse.
I know you, long-distance runner,
apostate, follower of game trails.
I see already your ruin, inevitable as oxygen.
I hear the birds who never spoke to me
calling to you by name,
as if the world could possibly miss
one more neurotic primate lover.
The bindweed sheds its leaves
& turns to gold filagree in the lilac,
above the graves of the strangers
whose whiskey bottles I have placed,
green & purple, in the windows
to catch the winter sun.
Pizza, the way I make it, isn’t very labor-intensive; it only requires a little bit of advanced planning. Start two to three hours before you plan to eat. It’s way simpler than making bread, because there’s only one rising. Sure, you can buy a pre-made frozen crust, but good luck finding a whole wheat one. Chances are you’ll end up spending much too much money on a bunch of empty carbohydrates. Other advantages of making your own: kneading is a tremendous finger exercise, plus you can salt to your own taste. (Why is commercial pizza always so doggone salty?)
If you’re used to white-flour pizza, of course, this is a completely different animal. But I’ve been making this for years, and I’ve never had even the pickiest, most “non-crunchy” guests refuse to eat it!
To make enough for one 16-inch pizza or medium stromboli:
Heat 7/8 cup water (or 3/4 cup for a thinner pie — it will take a few minutes less to bake) to blood temperature.
Pour hot water over 1 tablespoon baking yeast in non-metalic bowl and let the yeast work for 5 minutes or so.
Add 1 tablespoon or more ground dried (or chopped fresh) rosemary, scant teaspoon salt, 1/3 c good olive oil, about 1/2 cup white flour (purists can eliminate, but it does make dough more elastic), and a cup or two whole wheat bread flour and stir everything up with plastic or wooden spoon.
Add more whole wheat flour in small increments and blend thoroughly with spoon or fingers, until dough just stops being sticky (it will still be somewhat oily, of course).
Turn out onto a bread board or counter top and knead for 5-10 minutes. This is an altogether different experience from kneading regular yeast bread, due to the absence of sugar, honey or molasses. You should find that the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers or to the board — if it does, give a little dusting more of flour.
Return to warmed, freshly oiled bowl, cover with dishtowel and let rise until you’re ready to begin baking.
I strongly recommend the use of a stone to keep the pie from getting too hard. Remember to place the stone in the oven when you turn it on to preheat at 400 degrees F.
A half hour before dinner, punch down dough, knead it a little bit (less than a minute) and roll it out into the approximate size and shape of the stone (if using a cookie tray, grease the tray and roll dough out on it). Spin it if you’re good (I’m not).
Remove stone from oven (you’ll need one of those humungous wooden spatula things), place dough on it and stretch or roll to fit. You may need to sprinkle the stone with a dusting of cornmeal if it’s still relatively new. You can roll the dough so it overlaps the edge of the stone by a couple inches, then crimp it up to fit for a nice, thick edge.
Add sauce at this point, but no toppings. (The simplest sauce is just a half-can of tomato paste with a little salt, a dash of wine, and maybe some oregano and basil. For a Mexican-style pizza, use tomato salsa, pureed or whole, mix mole with tomatoes, or use straight guacamole. Or skip sauce altogether in favor of a layer of cheese, say, or grated tofu if you’re a vegan. The important thing is to have a thin, moist layer on top of the dough at this point).
Bake for 10 minutes at 400, remove and turn oven down to 350.
Add cheese (if any), toppings, and a sprinkling of additional cheese if desired, and bake for 5-10 minutes longer. You can test its doneness by lifting one side of the pie with a large metal spatula and feeling the dough to see if it’s hard enough. I prefer it when it’s still bendy, but not so soft that picking up the pieces is difficult.
For stromboli, obviously everything (cheese, sauce, vegetables, etc.) goes in at once, the dough is folded over into a crescent and pinched shut. Cut a few slits with a sharp knife, and stick it in at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. It probably helps if the filling is hot to begin with.
Note on herbs: they can be added to the dough, to the sauce and/or the sauteed toppings. The same is true with garlic, although I think the sauce is the best place for it. Of course, the rosemary isn’t an integral part of the recipe, but I almost never make pizza or stromboli dough without it.
An earlier version of this recipe appeared on my now-defunct Geocities site back in 2003.
I pestered family and friends this Thanksgiving and Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day with a simple question: what are you thankful for? Responders included my Mom and Dad, my brother Steve, his daughter Elanor and his wife Pamela, who checked in with us on (American) Thanksgiving Day via a Skype video connection from Newfoundland; and my friends Natalie d’Arbeloff, Chris O’Brien, Deb Scott, Phil Coleman, and Beth Adams.
Several people have asked me what I’m thankful for — a fair question. Too many things to count, really, but first and foremost: all of you. Thanks for reading (or listening), thanks for the gift of your presence and for the inspiration of your own example as writers, artists, or citizens of the planet.
The feast: more than a meal, it’s flesh at its most opulent surrounded by a nimbus of starches and sweets, by anticipation and ceremony, by cacophony and prayer. If fast is a holding firm, feast is a letting go — but no less a ritual for that. Certain foods must be served in a set order. Belts must be loosened along with inhibitions. First the table must groan under the weight of the food, then the eaters must groan as they attempt to rise. The boundary between pleasure and pain must be breached — especially on a feast of thanksgiving. You can say grace before any meal, but Thanksgiving’s mandatory excess imparts a visceral understanding of the cost of consumption: something has to die that we may live.
Walking it off
through the night & fog
the dazzle of home
Most climb Tussey Mountain for the views afforded by the numerous rocky openings along the ridge crest. To me, though, the broken rock itself is more interesting than the deceitfully smooth contours of distant ridges — to say nothing of the valleys and their bucolic-looking monocultures, which are probably less biodiverse than these boulder fields. Continue reading “Tussey Mountain breakdown”
Hannah Stephenson has been blogging a new poem every weekday since July 2008, recently posting her 600th poem at The Storialist. She’s also active on Facebook and Twitter, records and uploads songs to SoundCloud, reads and comments widely on other blogs, and has just completed a full-length manuscript of poetry called Guided Tours, in addition to her work as a college writing instructor and freelance editorial consultant. Bascially, I wanted to know how the hell she does it. I also wanted to learn more about the connection between poetry and fashion photography, her original inspiration at The Storialist.
In the course of the conversation, I got her to read a few poems, too. Here are the links if you’d like to follow along:
Thanks to Samantha Hahn (see larger version of “Burden”) and Marcos Armstrong for the images. Theme music: “Le grand sequoia,” by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence)
On my kitchen counter, I had a jar of dark honey and a jar of light honey. The dark was wildflower, and the light, I believe, came from the beekeeper’s yard full of blueberries, or perhaps from some basswood trees on the mountain behind him. For unlike clover honey, which is also light but generic in taste, this honey was delicious — far superior to the wildflower. When it diminished to the point where my spoon couldn’t reach it, I heated and poured it into the smaller jar of dark honey. Earth, meet sky, I thought. But by the next morning, they had switched places: the light was on the bottom and the dark on top, with only a slight blurring where they met.
Without bees, how would we ever learn what flowers taste like? Without children, how would we remember the way the world looked before it grew tangled and thick? Yesterday, my five-year-old niece was flopping around on her back on the kitchen floor, trying to trip me as I plodded back and forth between stove and counter. Out of the blue, she said, “You know what, Uncle Dave? You’ll never get married to anybody because you’re too silly!” It almost made me laugh, but being a grownup, I was careful to keep my smile safely hidden behind my beard. Stepping high to avoid her, I carried a hot saucepan over to the sink, thinking of John Cleese’s most famous skit and the occasional, absolute necessity of silly walks.