This poem found its way unexpectedly into my life last week. I’m always fascinated by how things come into our lives, just when we think we need them. Last week, the National Book Award finalists were announced. I’m disappointed When You Reach Me isn’t on there, but have little to say about the Stitches controversy. In any case, it’s irrelevant outside the fact that it is this discussion that has lead me to Katrina Vandenberg’s poetry. John Green, on his blog, posted about how irrelevant the categorization of books into one category over another is, and presented Katrina Vandenberg as an example. Her poetry is recommended on Amazon if you go to any of John Green’s books. So I googled Katrina Vandenberg and found this poem, and it nearly brought me to tears. I can’t even explain to you why.
PESTO IN AUGUST by Katrina Vandenberg
How many times does this ritual repeat
itself, preparation that begins with sweetness
unlocked by the parting of leaves? How many
women have unpetaled garlic cloves, dripped oil
cold-pressed from olives down a bowl’s curve,
ground the edible seeds of pine with mortar
and pestle until the clay was sweet with resin?
Though the legend speaks of love, in Italy
when a woman let basil’s scent seep from
her clay-potted balcony, she was being modest
when she said the smell would tell a certain man
to be ready only for her flowers and her smile.
Tonight I steam pasta until my wallpaper curls
from the walls, slice heavy globes of tomatoes
that separate in sighs of juice and seed,
then toss them with hot spaghetti and the green
my garden has produced with sun, wind, earth,
moon, rain; I remember another legend,
that a sprig of basil given
in love seals love forever.
A clink of plates, of silverware, an overflow
of wine. Say, Love, I am ready. Come. Take. Eat.
I don’t even like pesto! Every word in this poem belongs there, everything to me is absolutely perfect. It is a love poem that looks at love in such a unique way that it’s blowing my mind a little bit. It is a poem about women and cooking and what cooking means for women, but in a way that is celebratory instead of stereotypical. Gah. I’m eternally jealous of this poem and what it does. Hello, Katrina Vandenberg, can we be best friends?