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‘The Secret Ingredient’ by Maria Laura Bratoz

Welcome to the dVerse Poets Pub, an online community that convenes several times weekly to share poems based on that evening’s prompt. It’s Amaya Engleking bartending tonight and I’ll also serve as sous chef for our dVerse holiday version of Stone Soup: Everyone brings one secret ingredient.

Eggnog, pomegranate seeds, orange brandy, clove icing… this time of year is not lacking for palate stimulation but tonight we’re going to dish out poems with a little something extra, unprecedented, and of course delicious that will keep the reader/taster intrigued and coming back for seconds.

Here’s James Tipton to get us in the mood.

Any Poem

Any poem
worth its salt
must have
the sea in it
and at least
a pinch
of sweet flesh,
and it probably
needs a couple
of stray dogs
and some green
jazz, and
those huge rocks

behind the house
we thought
were ordinary
until they surfaced
in our sleep,
and a poem needs
love, but simple,
like coarse mustard
on muenster cheese,
and some light,
like the first cell

that began
our bodies,
and some darkness,
like the center
of bread
before it begins
to rise,
and two strong legs
willing to run off
without us.

(Source: http://tiptonpoetryjournal.com/tpj11/tipton.htm)

And another confectionary-themed poem in this excerpt from Darcie Dennigan’s In the Bakery:

It was really beginning.

Baguettes made entirely of white peonies.

Brioche from the blood of purple lilacs.

Long lines outside the bakery’s door . . .

What is the secret ingredient?
I confessed: Flower. Flowers! Please, put me away. I am desperate.

I could not go through another.

The woodbine had barely begun and already the mornings were full of the scent of

Not one honeysuckle would go unsucked—unless—

I closed the doors (every season is too full of longing!) and rechristened myself Flora.
I drank a vat of rose water and put both my wrists through the slicer.

And then I began to bleed—a white powder.

And then you came in.
I would have known you even if you were not wearing in your  buttonhole a carnation.

The bakery is closed, I said tersely.
I was bleeding profusely.

I loved you even before you said
Nothing breaks more slowly, more silently, than bread.

With my blood pouring out as a fine, dry flour
let me confess before I expire.

There on the counter, in that vase
fresh and pink is the corsage I was keeping for our dance.

(Source: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/55445/in-the-bakery)

Thus far we’ve looked at secret ingredients within the context of recipes, as that is how we usually apply them. However, in our prompt let us venture away from the edible and add our own personal touches to a form. Without giving away any secrets, think about a form you feel confident in — sonnet, free verse, golden shovel, ode, ghazal, cinquain, etc. — and perhaps add a pinch or splash of something uniquely your own, not usually found within chosen form. Think subtle, but noticeable. Perhaps be particular with word choice to hint at the hidden undertones. Or overtones.

In a way, as poets we are always doing this but tonight let’s make it deliberate. Be sommelier of the vintage splashing around in your mouth and try to pinpoint every note. Keep this in mind too, taste-testers, when you comment on others’ poems. And hey, if you just want to go ahead and write a poem directly about a secret ingredient, be my guest. You can’t go wrong with pudding.

Here is one by Ogden Nash that breaks the informal ‘rules’ of love poetry, with its erratic rhyme scheme and, well, you’ll see. Yet it’s both charming and effective; the equivalent to tuna salad with mayonnaise, hard-boiled egg, dill pickle, onion, mustard, and capers. Who would have thought with so many astringent flavors?

To My Valentine

More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States,
That’s how much I love you.

I love you more than a duck can swim,
And more than a grapefruit squirts,
I love you more than a gin rummy is a bore,
And more than a toothache hurts.

As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,

Or a juggler hates a shove,
As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
That’s how much you I love.

I love you more than a wasp can sting,
And more than the subway jerks,
I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
And more than a hangnail irks.

I swear to you by the stars above,
And below, if such there be,
As the High Court loathes perjurious
That’s how you’re loved by me

(Source: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1941/02/15/to-my-valentine)

See? Onion in albacore. And yeah, we’ve circulated back to food as we are wont to do in this last fraction of the pecan pie of a year. So that’s it, friends! Bring a poem featuring a secret ingredient to the table and drop your link in the Mr.Linky below. Then go make the rounds and also stop in below for some mulled wine or cider. (I bet you’ll never guess what I put in it!)

Image Credit: Maria Laura Bratoz