Rose Petal Sorbet

When a poet invites you to dinner
you attend with all your senses.
Julie has prepared a feast
for her circle of friends.
She’s doused the electric lights
and put the baby to bed.
One by one we come in from the cold
and find the way across the warm threshold
charmed with candlelight and symphony,
the air full of herbs and balsamic
and the laughter of communion.

We take wine and talk
in comfort and comradeship,
drawn by aroma to her table where we circle
and settle as slowly as stirred tea leaves.
She has sacrificed and prepared for us
a hen from her family’s farm.
There are new potatoes in basil-flecked butter sauce,
garden lettuce and chard,
feta cheese, vinegar and oil,
and dark wine in tall glasses.

The cheer and the talk rise up in the air
like steam curling in the gleam of candles
until at length our voices lower to a murmur
as plates vanish and cups are filled again.

Then Julie brings the rose petal sorbet.

We do not know what this is.
Quietly she explains.
In a long day her patient fingers
gathered enough wild roses
to fill a sack with tiny petals.
To this ambrosial meat she brought
sugar and lemons, fire and ice,
making just enough to offer us each
one pale pink ball of frost,
barely larger than the rose itself,
in a tiny crystal bowl.

When a poet makes dessert for you,
you attend with all your heart,
because she has compacted her time,
hard labors, and a distillation
of acres of wild roses,
flavor fulfilling beyond nourishment.
You do not ask for more. You hold this taste
in mind and memory, so much life and beauty,
so small a dish.

© 2010 Greg Bryant under the Creative Commons

About Greg Bryant

I teach writing and literature at Highland Community College in northeast Kansas.
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9 Responses to Rose Petal Sorbet

  1. Julie says:

    You forgot the rasam. Just joking. When would you guys like to come to dinner again?


    • Greg Bryant says:

      What the heck’s “rasam”? I probably left out a lot of stuff. Name some dates and tell us what we can contribute. We ought to have an end-of-semester “School’s Out” party. Susan and Bryon can share the joy vicariously through me and you and Dylan. When does your break start?

  2. bryon says:

    I wasn’t at this dinner, but I do have a privileged viewpoint on this beautiful poem. I see the intersection of poetry and the culinary arts pretty regularly, but it’s generally while I’m playing sous chef or eating the result. Greg, you’ve put the intersection into words so that one can (Alfred J. Korzybski to one side) taste the menu, so to speak. I’m especially fond of the last stanza; the language is so meticulous, each word so carefully chosen, just as each rose petal (from the acres) was carefully chosen for use. There’s such a powerful Zen message here, about living in this moment and appreciating it, whether it’s rose petal sorbet or poetry or companionship one is savoring.

    Nitpick: In that last stanza, “you attend, and you attend,” is the second comma needed?

    • Greg says:

      No, that comma at the end of that line is not needed, and thanks for bringing that up. I like the way it reads without it. My mom always said I used too many commas. I like letting it run right into the next line’s “because.” I’ll change that right now.

      • Greg Bryant says:

        No, I changed my mind. I just tried it and it didn’t work. Some other edit may be necessary, but if I delete that comma, for some reason it seems like a mere redundancy, whereas I mean two different senses: “You show up, and you pay attention, because…” I can’t explain the semantics of it, but if I leave out that comma, it just reads to me like “You show up, and you show up because…”

        Maybe the two senses idea is too cute. I’m open to suggestions.

  3. Greg Bryant says:

    Bryon, what if I deleted the first of those two commas instead?

    When a poet makes dessert for you,
    you attend and you attend,
    because she has compacted her time,
    hard labors, and a distillation
    of acres of wild roses. . .

    But then it just sounds like you attend till you wear out your welcome or something. I’m stumped.

  4. bryon says:

    OK … I missed the two senses of “attend” previously. As long as a fellow is bright enough to see what you’re doing there, it works and the second comma is required. I have to say that was too subtle for me, but let’s see what other, perhaps more attentive, readers have to say before considering any changes.

  5. Greg Bryant says:

    I’ve changed the second line of the last stanza because “You attend, and you attend, …” was really bothering me. The cute wordplay sounded pretentious.

    When a poet makes dessert for you,
    you attend with all your heart, …

    I like this better because, although both meanings of “attend” could be read there, both point in the same general direction and either one alone is fine. It also echoes and increments the second line of the first stanza.

  6. bryon says:

    This is it. This little change works very nicely.

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