Friday, April 2, 2010

A Food Poem for Friday: Linda Pastan ~ Dedicated to Mary and Ruby

I've always wanted to write a poem about my regular weekend visits to the Haymarket in Boston with my father. For some reason I don't remember, it was a ritual for just the two of us. I'm old enough to remember a Boston that was depressed from the end of shipbuilding and not yet a technology mecca. Instinctively, I knew the two of us were visiting a magical world of the past. Fresh produce markets all but disappeared before they made their fashionable comeback -- at least in Boston. Here's Linda Pastan's poem Market Day. Pastan was the first poet I ever heard read her work. Sometime in the mid 1970's she visited Brookline High School and I've been an ardent fan of her work ever since.

Market Day

We have traveled all this way
to see the real France:
these trays of apricots and grapes spilled out
like semi-precious stones
for us to choose; a milky way
of cheeses whose name like planets
I forget; heraldic sole
displayed on ice, as if the fish
themselves had just escaped,
leaving their scaled armor behind.
There's nothing like this
anywhere, you say. And I see
Burnside Avenue in the Bronx, my mother

sending me for farmer cheese and lox:
the rounds of cheese grainy and white, pocked
like the surface of the moon;
the silken slices of smoked fish
lying in careful pleats; and always,
as here, sawdust under our feet
the color of sand brought in on our pants cuffs
from Sunday at the beach.
Across the street on benches,
my grandparents lifted their faces
to the sun the way the blind turn
towards a familiar sound, speaking
another language I almost understand.

~ Linda Pastan, Carnival Evening


  1. What a great first poet to hear!

    I recall getting to Haymarket just a bit too late and seeing a few lonesome rejected vegetables in the stalls, the streets strewn with cabbage leaves and a briny scent in the air. I'd love to see your poem.

  2. Hi Lana,
    I guess I would have to write it first. Did you grow up in Boston? Yes, there was always smashed fruit underfoot. We would get there late when the vendors would almost beg for us to take the tomatoes that had to be used that day ...

  3. We share enjoyment of Pastan's work. I've also heard her read. I'm doing a post on her later this month.

  4. Thanks, Maureen!
    This isn't my all-time favorite Pastan poem -- but the connection to my life gives it an extra layer for me. She has been really kind to me throughout my career. I look forward to reading your post about her!