Samanthe Sheffer

Looks Like Faith                                                      

Chill southern winds shove and pummel grand 

leafing maples, stately cedars, day after day from 

one month into another, cracking off thick limbs, 

hurling them to sodden ground impaled 

by deadwood spears, strewn with ragged branches,


some tipped abundantly with leaf buds as firm 

and flush as magnolia, fat with futile purpose.

Dwarfed fruit trees—an apple, a pear— 

without choice, raise translucent petals, sturdy 

as moth’s wings, to this fierceness. 


Both Sides of the Bread

How is it that melted brie tastes so different 

from its firmer form? An onion can start rotting

from a single middle layer? And, for all of her 

standby dishes requiring just five or seven ingredients 

she is missing one?  


A mound of pale melons 

on one side of the aisle won’t reconcile 

with eggnog in the dairy display:

her long gloved fingers caress, then replace, 

mangos flown from Chile--buying them 

won’t produce summer on her skin.


Having relished, rejected, researched,       

tended, purchased, prepared

and discarded food for decades;

having received it through tubes or forced herself to swallow;

smiled at the shine of golden corn 

with black beans and red tomatoes; groaned 

with the wet/firm sweet of pear 

against thick, buttery tang of Stilton; 

loved with food, celebrated and consoled with it,

resented the time spent shopping, cooking; 

having been impatient with chewing,

she thinks of food creatively, concernedly, often


How is it that salt makes sugar sweeter, muffins 

became cupcakes and chocolate a breakfast food?

Vegetables are more plentiful in cities, 

and the towns, 

from which the truly fresh fish arrives for city restaurants,

serve frozen?  

Even “fresh” food travels by truck-plane-truck 

and may legally be frozen and thawed.


She, who has always enjoyed variety in food,

even in poorer youth when variety came canned,

now knows gratitude, and guilt; thinks of

the lives of others: some might wish to steal the vegetable

trimmings from her compost or       

be thrilled with reliable boredom of rice rice rice rice rice


How is it that we now eat most of our meals alone,

 as fast as possible, in front of dashboards or backlit screens?

How is it that “food” became a paragraph 

of non-perishable, unpronounceable ingredients 

in tiny print, listed by federal mandate 

on cardboard containers, the contents of which

cause illness and hasten our demise?  


How is it that, in her wealthy, spacious country,

its bounty of people weighing eighty extra pounds 

is undernourished

And one tenth of young minds can’t take in knowledge

because of empty bellies?


With acorn squash in her basket 

she reaches for chilled eggs; 

remembers the disgust expressed when her students heard

that eggs come warm from the rear of a hen;

does she know how all of her purchases are grown?  


Waste bothers her the most:

her incredible access to edibles snubbed 

by her sluggish appetite; molds found 

on marinara and refrigerated rye--her landscaping ingests 

a fifth of the food she meant to eat; 

kitchen workers fill barrels      

with what’s left on “finished” plates;

she knows there is no “away” 

for us to throw to


Oh my goodness yesshe is grateful, she isgrateful

to make different dishes for different times of day

discard the citrus peels and brew coffee grounds just once

to be able to take full cupboards for granted,

 occasionally eat out of season, eat out at all,

to be lucky enough to complain about, question these things


Unpacking kale, garlic, baguette, she looks 

across her tree-shaded yard that nourishes 

mostly juncos, chickadees, bees,

where the deep rains come after  

tender plants have died back, stopped drinking;

admires the hummingbirds at the feeder under the eaves who, 

fiercely territorial, still call truce at dusk

so that all may survive the dark night. 

How to be like them?  


She who has been too slender too long

butters both sides of her bread.