The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Goodbye Toothless House by Kelly Fordon

This is a Man-fractured Land

Sidewalks replete with
roving red-eyes,
swindlers who swarm
our daughters, slip
into their ear buds,
caress their baby faces,
lull them into dreams of
the perfect
Still-life in Bloom.

This selection comes from the poetry book, Goodbye Toothless House, available from KATTYWOMPUS PRESS.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Tierney Bailey.

Kelly Fordon is the author of three poetry chapbooks. The first one, On the Street Where We Live, won the 2012 Standing Rock Chapbook Award and the latest one, The Witness, won the 2016 Eric Hoffer Award for the Chapbook and was shortlisted for the Grand Prize. Her novel-in-stories, Garden for the Blind, was chosen as a Michigan Notable Book, a 2016 Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Finalist, a Midwest Book Award Finalist, an Eric Hoffer Finalist, and an IPPY Awards Bronze Medalist in the short story category. Her first full-length poetry collection, Goodbye Toothless House, was published by Kattywompus Press in February 2019. A new short story collection, I Have the Answer, will be published by Wayne State University in April 2020. She teaches at the College for Creative Studies, Springfed Arts, and InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit. www.kellyfordon.com
 
Tierney Bailey is a Libra, a lover of science fiction and poetry, and studies Korean in her spare time. Currently, Tierney is an associate poetry editor at Sundress Publications, a copyeditor at Strange Horizons, and a freelance graphic designer. Tierney earned a Masters Degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. Tierney is most easily found screaming into the void on Twitter as @ergotierney. 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Goodbye Toothless House by Kelly Fordon

Hospitals are Great Places to Visit

  1. You do not want to enter but she has you by the throat.
    At this point, you are not armed.
  2. Rose-colored building, 1950s art deco, long white
    hallways, smells like under the kitchen cabinet, smells
    like under a limey rock, smells like dirty handkerchiefs,
    smells like dark cavities.
  3. A head on a white plate. A nurse holding it up by its
    greasy tendrils, spooning yellow mash on to the cracked
    pavement tongue. Watch the mash seep out onto the white
    plate. Watch the bag underneath the bed fill with mud.
  4. A room with pale blue walls, dirty blue, corrosive blue,
    pewter, blue that makes you want to weep, blue that
    makes you want to bang your head.
  5. Listen as she chatters and clicks around the room in three-inch
    heels: How about some air in here! Have you been
    watching the French Open? Are you comfortable? Would
    you like me to turn on the light? The doctor certainly
    seems nice. I’m sorry we’re so late. We brought you some
    ice cream. Do you think you can stomach some ice cream?
  6. Laugh. Asking a dying man…
  7. Duck tomahawk glare.
  8. Thirty years pass. Visit various heads in beds including
    but not limited to: your autistic aunt, your homeless
    uncle, your agoraphobic grandmother.
  9. Do Not Touch. Each one has been carefully preserved in cellophane.
  10. Arm yourself.
  11. Your cat should have known better than to stare you down.
  12. Killer heels.
  13. You will be frisked.
  14. A cylinder in back catches some of the black effluvium and another one underneath catches the rest.
  1. Did you watch the U.S. Open last night? Did you read
    the life section today? I think I need a cup of coffee. Is
    anyone ever going to change the garbage? Didn’t you
    see this coming? I saw this coming. I’ve always known
    how this would end.

This selection comes from the poetry book, Goodbye Toothless House, available from KATTYWOMPUS PRESS.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Tierney Bailey.

Kelly Fordon is the author of three poetry chapbooks. The first one, On the Street Where We Live, won the 2012 Standing Rock Chapbook Award and the latest one, The Witness, won the 2016 Eric Hoffer Award for the Chapbook and was shortlisted for the Grand Prize. Her novel-in-stories, Garden for the Blind, was chosen as a Michigan Notable Book, a 2016 Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Finalist, a Midwest Book Award Finalist, an Eric Hoffer Finalist, and an IPPY Awards Bronze Medalist in the short story category. Her first full-length poetry collection, Goodbye Toothless House, was published by Kattywompus Press in February 2019. A new short story collection, I Have the Answer, will be published by Wayne State University in April 2020. She teaches at the College for Creative Studies, Springfed Arts, and InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit. www.kellyfordon.com
 
Tierney Bailey is a Libra, a lover of science fiction and poetry, and studies Korean in her spare time. Currently, Tierney is an associate poetry editor at Sundress Publications, a copyeditor at Strange Horizons, and a freelance graphic designer. Tierney earned a Masters Degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. Tierney is most easily found screaming into the void on Twitter as @ergotierney. 

November Reading Series Features Andres Rojas, Remi Recchia, and Alyssa Molina

Knoxville, TN: The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce poetry readings from Andres Rojas, Remi Recchia, and Alyssa Molina at the Hexagon Brewing Co. Sunday 10 November at 1pm.

Andres Rojas is the author of the chapbook Looking For What Isn’t There (Paper Nautilus Debut Series winner, 2019) and of the audio chapbook The Season of the Dead (EAT Poems, 2016). His poetry has been featured in the Best New Poets series and has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in, among others, AGNI, Barrow Street, Colorado Review, Massachusetts Review, New England Review, and Poetry Northwest.

Excerpt-four lines from “New Year’s Eve:”

                                                                   Again
we turn our heads to lessen the wind’s sting. Again
 
we hope to become neither prey nor hunger,
the children in them nor the chain-link kennels.

Remi Recchia is a transgender poet playwright from Kalamazoo, Michigan. He holds an MFA in Poetry from Bowling Green State University, where he served as Assistant Poetry Editor for the Mid-American Review and taught Creative Writing. Remi is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. His work has appeared in Barzakh Magazine, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Front Porch, Gravel, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Haverthorn Press, among others, and he may be found on Twitter at @steambbcrywolf.
 
Excerpt
My hands are sometimes
corduroy & I’m wondering
 
if I still fit inside your jeans,
inside your lightbulb pocket.

Alyssa Molina is a Knoxville based poet and is a senior in her undergrad at the University of Tennessee studying creative writing. Alyssa was born and raised in Miami, “Little Havana,” FL, as her Cuban family says. Being first generation American, she is profoundly inspired by the tenacity of her family’s immigration story, their will to survive, and her hispanic culture. Alyssa is loud and proud with a laugh that is often heard before she is seen. If she isn’t laughing, she’s trying to make others laugh with elaborate stories. She was a traveling poet with The Fifth Woman in 2017-2018, and performed at Bonnaroo. Molina has hosted four poetry workshops with Marilyn Kallet, Seed Lynn, Daje Morris, and most currently with Sundress Academy. Alyssa defines happiness as bare feet, a cigar, and salsa dancing.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Goodbye Toothless House by Kelly Fordon

On the Train I Thought of Chagall

I saw a long line of cars.

I saw a big white house.

The ground was mottled

and abraded like

the back of a buffalo.

I saw a chicken coop,

a muddy ditch,

the padded cell

of the sky.

I saw a hunting blind,

ratcheting arms,

coal silos,

sand silos,

yards like ratty bath

mats, abandoned

sand boxes.

No green man.

No benevolent cow.

No villagers whistling

and hoisting sickles.

No multi-colored houses.

No woman waltzing

on the wind, Chagall.

It was the morning after,

the tough rows to hoe,

the scrub brush of babies

and midnight feedings,

Kansas before the witch’s

stockings and the wizard’s

charade. No tree of life,

just my chalky fingers

on the window pane,

just my face pressed

against the glass.

This selection comes from the poetry book, Goodbye Toothless House, available from KATTYWOMPUS PRESS.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Tierney Bailey.

Kelly Fordon is the author of three poetry chapbooks. The first one, On the Street Where We Live, won the 2012 Standing Rock Chapbook Award and the latest one, The Witness, won the 2016 Eric Hoffer Award for the Chapbook and was shortlisted for the Grand Prize. Her novel-in-stories, Garden for the Blind, was chosen as a Michigan Notable Book, a 2016 Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Finalist, a Midwest Book Award Finalist, an Eric Hoffer Finalist, and an IPPY Awards Bronze Medalist in the short story category. Her first full-length poetry collection, Goodbye Toothless House, was published by Kattywompus Press in February 2019. A new short story collection, I Have the Answer, will be published by Wayne State University in April 2020. She teaches at the College for Creative Studies, Springfed Arts, and InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit. www.kellyfordon.com
 
Tierney Bailey is a Libra, a lover of science fiction and poetry, and studies Korean in her spare time. Currently, Tierney is an associate poetry editor at Sundress Publications, a copyeditor at Strange Horizons, and a freelance graphic designer. Tierney earned a Masters Degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. Tierney is most easily found screaming into the void on Twitter as @ergotierney. 
 
 

SAFTA Announces Winners of Spring Residency Fellowships

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce Giorgia Sage, Blake Planty, Ashley Taylor, Katie Willa Bell, and Caitlin Myers as the winners of their five spring residency scholarships. These residencies are designed to give artists time and space to complete their creative projects in a quiet and productive environment.

Winners of the Lambda Literary Fellowships
for LGBTQIA+ Writers


Giorgia Sage is a writer, graphic designer, mover, and maker born and raised in San Francisco, California. Their work looks towards different physical, mental, and temporal scales of intimacy between people, places, and things. It attempts to perform experimental excavations of communities and their contexts in order to create more sustainable and compassionate ecologies of care. They graduated from Wesleyan University with Honors in Studio Art and returned to SF to live and work alongside many plants and a tail-less cat. Their work has been previously published in the MOTIF Anthology Series, Sugar Mule, and The Found Poetry Review, among others.

Blake Planty is a trans-masculine writer from Texas. He’s interested in metamorphosis, our bodies, living online, trauma, and the intersection of the rural and urban. His work is in DREGINALD, Waxwing Magazine, The Fanzine, Heavy Feather Review, Tenderness Lit, Foglifter Journal, and many more. He’s currently working on zines and a novel. He studied Literary Arts at Brown University, where he wrote a thesis about fighting cyborgs.

Winners of the Melissa Grunow Fellowships
for Women & Nonbinary Writers


Ashley Taylor is a Louisville, KY poet who curates, promotes, and designs inclusive programing of creative writing and performance arts for emerging and student writers. She is an early education teacher at Jewish Community Center and MFA candidate at Spalding University. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Louisville, where she served as graduate editor of Miracle Monocle and writing instructor of College Composition and Introduction to Creative Writing. She is the founder of Louisville reading series River City Revue, author of the chaplet Metamorphosis of Narcissus (Damaged Goods Press, 2019), and current facilitator of UofL’s LGBTQ Creative Writing Group.

Katie Willa Bell is a poet born and raised in Central Pennsylvania. She holds a degree in English from the University of Mary Washington. Most days she can be found training dogs for work in a school-based therapy dog program or on a less-traveled path in the woods.

Winner of the Kristi Larkin Havens Fellowship for
Outstanding Service to the Community


Caitlin Myers is a writer, environmental educator, and community worker who currently splits her time between Whitesburg, Kentucky, and Knoxville, Tennessee. Caitlin writes on politics, social movements, and life as a stranger in Appalachia, and her work has appeared in Scalawag, Current Affairs, Commune, and 100 Days in Appalachia. When not reporting on regional issues, Caitlin writes fiction and performance pieces that meditate on identity, memory, history, and monsters. Her work has appeared onstage in collaboration with Tiger Lily Theatre, Cattywampus Puppet Council, the Good Guy Collective, and the Dramatists’s Guild.  You can find her at @stopitkatie on Instagram and Twitter.

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is an artists’ residency that hosts workshops, retreats, and residencies for writers, actors, filmmakers, and visual artists. All are guided by experienced, professional instructors from a variety of creative disciplines who are dedicated to cultivating the arts in East Tennessee.

SAFTA is now taking applications for summer residencies!

Project Bookshelf: Samantha Edmonds

I worship, in this order: chaos, books, evocation. The proof is abundant on my shelves.

In August, for the first time in my life, I moved into a home with enough extra rooms that I could have an office, distinct from my bedroom and my living room. A dedicated space for my books. A home library. More room than I’ve ever had before. I marveled at the decadence: I alphabetized the books by author’s last name when I unpacked them, feeling like a librarian. In the past, I have been a book stacker, crowder, heaper. I distinctly remember my childhood bedroom and a pile of books six feet tall between the wall and the singular white bookshelf. Once, I had a desk-lamp that sat too low to warm my hermit crab tank, and so I piled four books underneath it to give it height. Not anymore, I thought when I moved. I would be someone who keeps her shelves dusted. I’ll file each new title in its appropriate space. I’ll drink more tea. I’ll meal prep.

As it turns out, organization—especially alphabetization—is tedious. After I’d unpacked them all, my books were wedged so tightly onto each shelf there was no room for growth. When I brought home a new title by Margaret Atwood, I realized I didn’t have any room in the A’s on my shelf, and to make space required shifting books down shelf by shelf, some of the A’s to the B’s, B’s to the C’s, and on to the end of the alphabet, four bookshelves away. Ridiculous, I said. Who does that? Not me, anyway. I tossed the book on top of the shelf. It was joined over the next weeks by more, books I’ve checked out from the library or were lent to me.

What’s more, it felt weird to sit in my living room and not be surrounded by books anymore. What do people put in their living room if not bookshelves? I wondered. I don’t own many knick-knacks. To placate my loneliness, I filled a shelf with books written by my friends, and beneath that, the entire 12-book Bloody Jack series by LA Meyer (in hardcover!). I grew up with Jacky the way some people grew up with Harry Potter, but I have never met another person in the world who has read all these books. (If you have, email me. We’re soulmates.)

I find I like to be surrounded by a bit of mess, works in progress. I do not often bother to reshelf books after I pull them to reference for various projects: the television script and novel versions of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett; Life of Pi by Yann Martel; a dog-eared copy of The Two Towers with Legolas on the cover, which I’ve owned for nearly fifteen years. I am fifteen again, looking at it.

My shelves are, overwhelmingly, prose. My shelving system does not distinguish between genres because I have so little poetry, and the CNF nestles side by side with the fiction, which is pretty representative of how I consider the two genres on a craft level, anyway. Fairy-tales, science fiction, classic literary canon I’ll never return to, pop culture, astronomy, all of them nest together. Carl Sagan sits right next to Karen Russell, alphabetically. George Saunders is on that shelf, too, and Shakespeare, and in between them is Jason Segel, the actor, whose middle-grade novel I got signed when he visited the bookstore where I used to work.

There’s the signed copy of jelly roll by Kevin Young, which I bought for an ex but never had the opportunity to pass on. There’s Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up, which I started and never finished the summer after I graduated college, still with the teddy bear bookmark in its pages. There’s the copy of The Chronicles of Narnia I’ve owned since middle school, and there’s The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, recommended to me my senior of college and so life-changing that I’ve assigned it every year I’ve taught creative nonfiction since. I bought that copy of The Little Prince in Paris. Several other titles in London, Cardiff, Dublin.

That, finally, is my point: evocation. These shelves are my altar (literally, there is still wax on top of one from where I’ve sent up many prayers by candlelight). They house my lives, memories, deities. Spindly vined plants curtain from the top shelf, draped next to windchimes and salt lamps and small trinkets. Framed photographs of my late lovebird, the fiercely mourned and daily missed absolute love of my life, sit front and center on the ledge, holding him, as the shelves do all my ghosts, warm and close.

I have concluded I will never be someone who regularly organizes or dusts her shelves, but I find that the books rarely get lost or dirty. I am always surprised at the lack of grime, but pleased too. Things that sit forgotten get dusty—a lack of dust implies activity, aliveness. I haven’t touched some of these books in years, but I like thinking of them as alive, because they are.


Samantha Edmonds is the author of Pretty to Think So (Selcouth Station Press, 2019) and The Space Poet (Split Lip Press, forthcoming 2020). Her fiction and nonfiction appears or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Rumpus, Literary Hub, Black Warrior Review, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. A PhD student in creative writing at the University of Missouri, she currently lives in Columbia.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Owl was a Baker’s Daughter by Gillian Cummings

The owl was a baker’s daughter

If earth is oven enough for my father’s body, I won’t eat a cake that flies.
No, no, no—but night hears Who? as a question and cherry pies come
out feathered in silvers, golds. Brown at the throat where words turned
to molten syrup under crust—whose edges? Who? Where do we end? Ah,
stir us with no spoon but a knife, dirt is all our company. Would I were
the moon. Misted over and round as a chipped china plate. It’s late to
dine but too early for worms, so let me shine eerily upon you. I’ll enter
the hall quietly slippered, my body gossamered white.

This selection comes from the poetry book,  available from University Press of Colorado.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Gillian Cummings is the author of The Owl was a Baker’s Daughter, selected by John Yau as the winner of the 2018 Colorado Prize for Poetry (The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University, 2018) and My Dim Aviary, winner of the 2015 Hudson Prize (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). She has also written three chapbooks: Ophelia (dancing girl press, 2016), Petals as an Offering in Darkness (Finishing Line Press, 2014), and Spirits of the Humid Cloud (dancing girl press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, The Colorado Review, The Crab Orchard Review, The Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, The Journal, The Laurel Review, Linebreak, The Massachusetts Review, The New Orleans Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, in other journals and in two anthologies. In 2008, she was awarded a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund Poetry Prize. A graduate of Stony Brook University (BA, English) and of Sarah Lawrence College’s MFA program, Gillian lives in Westchester County, New York, where for five years she taught poetry workshops to women at New York Presbyterian Hospital. She is currently at work on a novel and a third collection of poetry. She also draws botanical still lifes and occasional other subjects, and is currently seeking out professional training in the visual arts.
 
Nilsa Rivera writes about gender and diversity issues. She’s also the Managing Editor of The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications. Nilsa’s work appeared in the Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens Literary Journal, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, and Selkie Literary Magazine. She lives in Riverview, Florida with her husband, son, and other multi-species family members. 
 
 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Owl was a Baker’s Daughter by Gillian Cummings

A Dream of Sea Urchins


Forever wed to water, you drift far
into ocean. Here, no harebell, no cowslip,
no rosemary nor rue—just seahorses
in the sting of brine and otters
who clutch spiny prey with such
innocence, they mother their meal
with lullaby. Mermaidlike, you cleave
to blue, carve yourself into waves
that wash memory away. Here,
salt tangle of your hair, whale song,
rain’s drum, a difference. How
forgetting is one blessing
of death’s ongoing everness.

This selection comes from the poetry book,  available from University Press of Colorado.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Gillian Cummings is the author of The Owl was a Baker’s Daughter, selected by John Yau as the winner of the 2018 Colorado Prize for Poetry (The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University, 2018) and My Dim Aviary, winner of the 2015 Hudson Prize (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). She has also written three chapbooks: Ophelia (dancing girl press, 2016), Petals as an Offering in Darkness (Finishing Line Press, 2014), and Spirits of the Humid Cloud (dancing girl press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, The Colorado Review, The Crab Orchard Review, The Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, The Journal, The Laurel Review, Linebreak, The Massachusetts Review, The New Orleans Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, in other journals and in two anthologies. In 2008, she was awarded a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund Poetry Prize. A graduate of Stony Brook University (BA, English) and of Sarah Lawrence College’s MFA program, Gillian lives in Westchester County, New York, where for five years she taught poetry workshops to women at New York Presbyterian Hospital. She is currently at work on a novel and a third collection of poetry. She also draws botanical still lifes and occasional other subjects, and is currently seeking out professional training in the visual arts.
 
Nilsa Rivera writes about gender and diversity issues. She’s also the Managing Editor of The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications. Nilsa’s work appeared in the Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens Literary Journal, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, and Selkie Literary Magazine. She lives in Riverview, Florida with her husband, son, and other multi-species family members. 
 
 

Project Bookshelf: JoAnna Brooker

My bookshelf is a white built-in in my new house. It was one of the first things I set up to organize my mind with.

The top shelf is the brain shelf. I keep my personal journals since my freshman year of college and a photo album of my childhood here. I appreciate this bookshelf as proof of my existence as a corporeal being.

The three middle are my book collection. The first shelf contains satire from Stephen Colbert, Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino which will rip your brains out with a surgeon knife and keep digging,  and books about feminism and technology such as Technologies of Gender and Alice Doesn’t: Semiotics & Cinema by Teresa De Lauretis, and Feminism/Postmodernism by Linda J. Nicholson. This shelf is also where my intrigue with Heather Havrilesky, Mindy Kaling and Angela Carter begins to show. I have every book Mindy Kaling has ever written.

The second middle shelf has two Nora Ephron books: I feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, and the rest of Heather Havrilesky and Angela Carter’s books fill out this shelf.

In the bottom book collection shelf we round out the 7 craft books that have been staring us in the face this entire time. And here is where we find memoirs from Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and two short story collections from Flannery O’Connor. Some Gabriel Garcia Marquez and poetry books sprinkle out the rest of my collection. The last shelf is my collection of 2010s DVDs and Sims games.

My bookshelf reflects my mind in that it deeply craves logic and structure outside of the one which I’ve been taught, which is why I’m drawn to books about feminist theory and magical realism and comedy, because to me each of these rhetorical concepts depend on the ability to see the world differently.  I love macabre, brutally honest storytelling by women learning to navigate the patriarchal world we live in. Flannery O’Connor and Angela Carter reflect that impulse: to keep the beautiful prose alive as we learn to live in the violent now.

I am fascinated by cultural studies, academic theory, poignant essays, free verse poetry, sharp memoir, any story that touches at the chord of a feeling and keeps strumming it until it hums. Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a perfect example of my story and word ethos: words and stories are magic we can absorb into our own lives. Use that medicine wisely.

_____________

JoAnna Brooker is a graduate from the University of Tennessee, where she studied Journalism and English. Her work has been featured in The Knoxville Mercury, UT’s Daily Beacon, and occasionally on stage. She can be found on all social media platforms @cupofjoanna.

CookBook Recipes: Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato and Curry by Amy Watkins

I was on my way into the library for early voting when my brother texted: “There’s a shooting in our neighborhood. J’s at work. I’m out. It’s all blocked off. I can’t get home.”

My brother and his girlfriend live in Pittsburg. I live in Orlando. Beyond texting him back, there was nothing I could do, nothing to comfort or reassure him. I couldn’t meet him somewhere or invite him over to wait for news, and neither of us is the sort to spend hours on the phone. I felt helpless even on the small, intimate, human-to-human scale, and more than that, I felt the way Americans are accustomed to feeling now after a mass shooting. Angry and afraid, but vague, empty. I don’t want to say resigned, but it’s true that the sharp edges of my outrage had been worn away with frequent use.

I went on with my errands. I voted for people and laws I hoped were just, bought groceries and a book about grief, browsed the thrift store racks with my daughter and laughed at her delight over a pair of yellow overalls I would have coveted at her age. I checked my phone. I checked the news. Mass shooting at a synagogue. Multiple dead. Multiple wounded. I went home and put in a load of laundry.

The day before, our sister had had dental surgery. The doctor had cut into her gums to heal an abscess on her jaw, and she wouldn’t be able to eat solid food for several days. I had planned to make soup, something soft but substantial, something that felt more like nourishment than yogurt smoothies and ice cream.

There’s a fast and a slow way to make this soup, and I chose the slow way. I sliced and roasted sweet potatoes, stewed red lentils in broth with onions, garlic, celery, and curry powder. I read the news and tweets from the president. I added salt and black pepper, red pepper flakes and a little nutmeg. I didn’t put on music or pour a glass of wine. I blended and tasted and seasoned. I strained the soup through a metal sieve until it felt like velvet on my tongue, with just a hint of heat and just a hint of sweetness. My brother texted again: “Home now. Everyone on the street looks shocked and scared. Even the cats are on edge.” I poured the soup into a plastic container, topped it with a ribbon of green-gold olive oil, and carried it, still warm, to our sister.

I came home. I washed the dishes. I wrote a poem. I can’t say these actions were a comfort, exactly, and I know it isn’t good enough to just take care of my own. I know there are always things that can be done, always more that can be done. This isn’t really about that. This is about choosing to do one thing carefully and well, making something tangible that is as close to perfect as I can imagine it, whether or not it is a comfort, whether or not it is enough.

Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato and Curry

Makes ~1 ½ quarts

Ingredients:

2 cups dry red lentils

1 large yellow onion

3-4 cloves garlic

1-2 stalks celery

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes

Enough water or vegetable stock to cover vegetables (you may need to add more as it cooks)

Curry powder

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

A little bit of nutmeg

Directions:

Cut the sweet potatoes in half-inch-thick slices, coat in olive oil, and bake at 400 degrees until soft (you can skip this step to save time, peel and chop the sweet potatoes and cook them with the other vegetables; it will change the flavor and texture of the soup slightly, but it will still be good).

Roughly chop the other vegetables. You can add other vegetables too: red or yellow pepper, potato, cauliflower, tomato, carrot—whatever needs to be eaten before it goes bad. Cover the vegetables and lentils with water or stock and cook at a low simmer until the vegetables are soft and the lentils start to fall apart when you stir.

Add curry powder, salt and pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Peel and add sweet potatoes. Add other spices, if you like. A little cumin, turmeric, or coriander. A little cayenne or paprika or red pepper flakes—whatever tastes good to you.

Blend the soup until it’s smooth then strain it through a mesh sieve (you can skip straining it to save time, but I think the velvety texture is worth the extra step). Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or spoonful of plain yogurt.


Amy Watkins is the author of the chapbooks Milk & WaterLucky, and Wolf Daughter (coming soon from Sundress Publications). She lives in Orlando with her husband and daughter and a mean-spirited ginger cat. Find her online at RedLionSq.com or @amykwatkins.