National Poetry Month: BJ Buckley

I first encountered B.J. Buckley’s work one of the times when I was a judge for the Poetry Super Highway annual contest. I love this poem “Butter” and am pleased to feature it this year on my blog. 

Do you have any childhood memories connected to food? Does anyone not? Bread and butter are intimately linked to my memories of childhood happiness, specifically watching the homemade pita loaves puff up in the oven as they finished baking, and then spreading butter on them so soon it melted while the knife was still spreading it. That smell is still, to me, the scent of joy.

Butter

The cats are on the table licking butter
from my supper of stale discount bread,
whole grain loaf passed over in this whitebread
town. It’s nearly Christmas, and this memory
from childhood – December and real butter
in defiance of the lack of cheese or meat.
My father never shook the dust of Ellis Island
from his shoes. Year’s end he pinched
so on the Holy Morning we’d have oranges
in the toes of our stockings and nuts in their shells,
almonds and walnuts and filberts, Brazil nuts
and pecans, and ribbon candy made by the Cockney
man who had a tiny grocery, Greek cookies from
Mrs. Panopoulous whose first son had ended his own
life years before my sister and I were ever born.

My father drank his coffee half milk and so much
sugar that even we with our Irish sweet tooths
could barely get it down. I know from letters he wrote
to Bridie, sister left behind and never married,
that he longed for fish from the Shannon where it met
the sea, for Kerry butter, which you find now
in every market as if it were nothing special.
Those December dinners of whole wheat
thick spread with yellow are what I most remember,
more than the scrimped-for ham and sweet potatoes,
black olives and cranberry sauce in cut glass dishes,
the good silver hidden all year under my parents’ bed,
next to the string-tied shoebox with the captured
leprechaun from the Old Country and the suitcase
of graying photographs, the loved and lost
whose names were faded as their faces.

The cats are licking delicately their soft paws,
their pretty whiskers, cleaning their foreheads
and their ears. They smell of kibble-fish
and Kerry butter, of milk and wheat, a scent like
the hands of my father, making us our suppers
in the solstice dark, and then his thin clear tenor
that sang us off to sleep.

                                          at Yuletide, 2019

***

B.J. Buckley is a Montana poet and writer who has worked in Arts-in-Schools/Communities programs throughout the West and Midwest for over 45 years in schools, libraries, hospitals, senior centers and homeless shelters. Her work has appeared in Whitefish Review, ellipsis, Sugar House Review, December, Sequestrum, About Place Journal, The Comstock Poetry Review, and many others. Her book Corvidae, Poems of Ravens, Crows, and Magpies, with woodcut illustrations by Dawn Senior-Trask, came out from Lummox Press 2014. Her most recent work, the chapbook In January, the Geese, won the 35th Anniversary Comstock Review Chapbook Prize. Visit her website here.

Monday Earworm: Bonus Wintry Tune That Won’t Make You Miserable

I recognize it’s a bold claim to say that music I choose won’t make you miserable, but aren’t hot takes what blogs are for? Anyway, today’s song — “The Week Between” by Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick — has made the 12 Days Playlist in years past, and I had considered making it a bookend with The Waitresses for the Day 12 spot each year. I chose not to, though, because I honestly had too many other good tunes to share this time around (as is often the case), and the week between Christmas and New Year’s had a Monday that felt well-timed for this earworm.

I’ll catch up with you all more in the coming days and weeks to debrief on 2021 and cast a glance at 2022, but for now, here you go. Enjoy this song which I love, that sums up this week — almost every year of my childhood — so beautifully. The song’s subtextual premise is about nostalgia, and it definitely hits that for me.

What about you? What’s nostalgic about the week between for you?

 

12 Days of Wintry Tunes That Won’t Make You Miserable (Day 12)

Perhaps you’ve had a long and festive day filled with family, friends, food. Perhaps you’ve had a mellow and safe holiday. Perhaps you’re not celebrating. Perhaps you’re ready to settle in for the end of the holiday season and just want some quiet.

Whatever your state this evening, here is one last holiday earworm to finish things off until the next chapter. Stay tuned to the blog this coming week for more details about where things will be heading over here.

I wish you all the very best Saturday night, no matter what or if you’re celebrating. Cheers.

12 Days of Wintry Tunes That Won’t Make You Miserable (Day 10)

This is a delightfully dance-chaos remix of a standard I really like, in honor of Nerija, Sonic Chihuahua contributor and blogger well worth checking out, who recommended it to me.

I had previously known only the Dean Martin version of “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” and like most of what he did, it was Rat Pack Smarmy — in other words, entertaining at best and just tolerable most of the rest of the time. Deano always reminds me of my grandfather, who spent more of his time than strictly necessary singing for local audiences and generally being known as “Houston’s Dean Martin.” I loved my grandfather, despite his flaws, and we were close when I was young.

But my grandmother and I were a lot closer, and I miss her all the time. She passed away twenty years ago last week, and today I made lizzies, an unusually delicious fruitcake cookie she used to make for Christmas.

This video which features Kay Starr, today’s singer, will give you an idea of what my grandmother looked like in the 1940s, when she and my grandfather met and fell in love and married, while he was on leave from the war.

Enjoy this festive little moment with your favorite cookie.

12 Days of Wintry Tunes That Won’t Make You Miserable (Day 9)

So my post tonight is a little late because we were watching the new Matrix movie.

It was…umm…very…meta.

It’s like the people who made it decided they loved the other movies they made so much they were going to make yet another one that was in homage to the previous ones. I honestly can’t tell whether they were taking themselves seriously or not. I can say with certainty that the fourth movie is better than the third one, which we saw again last night. AND which we understood and could follow along better than when it first came out, but which is STILL very much the weakest link in this chain of movies. (When the third one first came out, I thought it was so bad it retroactively made the second one, which I had enjoyed, worse. But I digress.)

Tonight’s holiday earworm is fun and a little strange in that I can’t tell how seriously SheDaisy is taking themselves. I don’t know their work beyond the holidays songs of theirs I’ve heard. I first heard them a year ago with their somewhat mystifying rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Take from all of that what you will.

And enjoy!

12 Days of Wintry Tunes That Won’t Make You Miserable (Day 7)

I hope you’ve been enjoying — and had a chance to catch up on — these delightful holiday tunes I’ve been posting this year. Today we pick up again with Straight No Chaser, a perennial favorite of mine in part because my cousin’s husband is one of its members. (Wheee!)

Anyway, their version of “Mary, Did You Know?” is lovely and slow and just the thing on a day when one is sipping hot tea and recovering from a sinus infection (as I am). Cheers.

 

12 Days of Wintry Tunes That Won’t Make You Miserable (Day 6)

Okay, don’t judge, but I like the Jonas Brothers. I mean, a tiny bit. Since they got back together, at least. The songs I’ve heard played on the radio have been fun to listen to (though I admit I haven’t felt super motivated to seek out the tracks that haven’t been released in wider circulation).

And apparently they have a Christmas song out too? And it wasn’t a bad little bop at all. So here, share the festivity.