TCS: Stocking the Pantry in a Plague Year

. . Good Morning!



Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.


 “First we eat, then we do everything else.”
                      – M.F.K. Fisher


Today is Eat What You Want Day, which now seems like a relic from some far-distant past.

As part of the “most vulnerable” U.S. population, my husband and I are now dependent on deliveries from our local grocery stores. We place an order, choose a four-hour window of time on the next available delivery date, and then wonder what we will actually get. We never get all that we order, and there are substitutions for some items. Yesterday, however, the delivery was concerning.

We’ve been slowly stockpiling bottled water because the ancient pipes running under the street in front of our house are long overdue to be replaced, and increasingly spring large leaks, leaving us with no water on short notice, until the repair crew can patch them one more time. We had a ray of hope when my husband went out and chatted with the men making yet another hole in the street. They told him that three blocks of our street, including our block, had been approved in the 2020 city budget for pipe replacement. But that was before Covid-19 changed everything.

Yesterday, we did not get the water we ordered (yet were still billed for). We did get, and were charged for, five avocados and two muffin tins which we did not order. I found myself pondering the possibility that Douglas Adams’ Infinite Improbability Drive, from his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, had been hooked up to the online ordering system at the grocery store which, until now, had been the more reliable in filling our orders. (They were very nice about crediting the cost of the unwanted items to our credit card, but of course can’t take back the avocados or the muffin tins.)

When the predicted food shortages spread across the nation, I wonder how much worse things will get.

I wish all of you continued good health, and enough to eat. Here are some poems to contemplate this Monday:



by Jane Kenyon

In haste one evening while making dinner
I threw away a potato that was spoiled
on one end. The rest would have been

redeemable. In the yellow garbage pail
it became the consort of coffee grounds,
banana skins, carrot peelings.
I pitched it onto the compost
where steaming scraps and leaves
return, like bodies over time, to earth.

When I flipped the fetid layers with a hay
fork to air the pile, the potato turned up
unfailingly, as if to revile me—

looking plumper, firmer, resurrected
instead of disassembling. It seemed to grow
until I might have made shepherd’s pie
for a whole hamlet, people who pass the day
dropping trees, pumping gas, pinning
hand-me-down clothes on the line.

“Potato” from Collected Poems, © 2007 by Jane Kenyon – Graywolf Press

 Jane Kenyon (1947-1995) made a long journey in a short life. Before she died from leukemia a month and a day before her 48th birthday, Kenyon published four volumes of poetry, and a volume of translations of the poems of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. While at the University of Michigan, student Jane Kenyon had met professor and poet Donald Hall. In 1972, they married, he for the second time, she for the first – there was a 19-year difference in their ages. A couple of years later, they spent what was supposed to be a working summer vacation on Hall’s grandparents’ Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire, but his grandmother, who was in a nursing home, died while they were there. They bought the farm from her heirs, and moved in permanently. Kenyon fought a recurring battle with depression even before she became ill.  She was diagnosed with leukemia, and a bone-marrow transplant failed. Kenyon was editing  Otherwise: New and Selected Poems until just before her final days. The editing was finished later by her husband, and Otherwise was published posthumously.


This Is Just To Say

by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

“This Is Just To Say” from The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams –Volume I, © 1962 by William Carlos Williams – New Directions Publishing Corporation 

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) American poet who began writing poetry in High School. He became a physician, but was also a prolific poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright. He was good friends with Ezra Pound, who had a great influence on his early writing. His reputation was slower to build than Pound’s, but Williams experimented with meter and lineation, working toward a new style that was a departure from the heavy European influence on American poetry before the 20th century. He was admired by the Beat poets of the 1950s and early 1960s. His collection Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.


The Work of Happiness

by May Sarton

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall —
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a lifespan in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

“The Work of Happiness” from The Lion and the Rose, © 1948 by May Sarton – reissued in 2014 by Open Road Media

May Sarton (1912-1995) born Eleanore Marie Sarton, was an only child. Her parents fled with their two-year-old daughter from their Belgian homeland when the Germans invaded in 1914, first to Britain, and then on to America. Her father, who was a chemist, went to work at Harvard, and got a grant from the Carnegie Foundation. He became one of the notable 20th century historians of science. Her mother was English artist Mabel Eleanor Elwes. Sarton was a prolific American poet, memoirist and novelist. As a teenager, she was an apprentice at the legendary Eva Le Gallienne’s Civic Repertory Theatre in New York City, then spent a year in Paris. She published her first volume of poetry, Encounter in April, in 1937. She met Judy Matlack in 1945 in Santa Fe, Mexico and they became partners until 1958. Sarton lived for many years in an isolated house in Maine, and died at age 83 from cancer. Noted for 17 books of poetry, including A Grain of Mustard Seed, A Durable Fire, Halfway to Silence, and Coming Into Eighty, which won the 1993 Levinson Prize for Poetry.


Italian Food

by Shel Silverstein

Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just ‘cause how good it tastes
But ‘cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops—I think I split my jeani.

“Italian Food” from Everything On It © 2011 by Evil Eye LLC – HarperCollins Publishers

Shel Silverstein (1930-1999), beloved children’s book author, poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, and screenwriter, has over 20 million books in print in 30 languages. He gives much credit for his children’s books to his editor: “I never planned to write or draw for kids. It was Tomi Ungerer, a friend of mine, who insisted—practically dragged me, kicking and screaming, into Ursula Nordstrom’s office. And she convinced me that Tomi was right; I could do children’s books.” 


The Mad Farmer Revolution

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

“The Mad Farmer Revolution” from New Collected Poems © 2012 by Wendell Berry – Counterpoint Press

Wendell Berry (1934− ) American essayist, novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic and farmer. He was born in Henry County, Kentucky, the oldest of four children. Both his parents came from families that had farmed the area for at least five generations. In 1958, he won a fellowship to Stanford University’s creative writing program, studying under Wallace Stegner in a seminar that included Larry McMurtry,  Robert Stone, Ernest Gaines, Tillie Olsen, and Ken Kesey. Berry published his first novel, Nathan Coulter, in 1960. He has gone on to write more novels, essay collections, and several books of poetry. Berry has long been an opponent of war, nuclear power, and the increasing human plundering of the planet’s natural resources. He has been honored with dozens of awards, including the National Humanities Medal in 2010, and the 2016 Sidney Lanier Prize.



  • Infinite Improbability Drive
  • Stay Home We Deliver

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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2 Responses to TCS: Stocking the Pantry in a Plague Year

  1. Great selection of poems for this topic. I always love Jane Kenyon’s work!

    • wordcloud9 says:

      Hi Becky –

      I had fun looking though all food-related poems – the hard part was narrowing the choices down!

      And I agree – Jane Kenyon is wonderful.

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