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Donna Hilbert

Because his mother always
burns the beans
I am careful not to; but once
distracted by the babies at my feet
I let the pot run dry.
Slender fingers of green
ruin to brown with a minute’s
inattention, but I refuse defeat
scrape the beans onto his plate
next to meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
He rolls his eyes
and I gather steam, become
the door-to-door salesman of supper:
They are supposed to look that way!
Burn-aise sauce, it’s French, I say.
I saw the recipe on TV, or read it in a book.
Lies tumble from my lips like crumbs
and I invoke the saints of good cuisine:
Julia Child, Betty Crocker, Sara Lee,
so burned to a crisp am I by the thought
of doing wrong and getting caught.

From The Congress of Luminous Bodies (Aortic Books, 2013).
Used here with the author’s permission.



Donna Hilbert writes and teaches private workshops from her home in Long Beach, California. Her work is widely published in multiple languages and she is featured in the documentary, "Grief Becomes Me: A Love Story." Her most recent collection is The Congress of Luminous Bodies, from Aortic Books, and she has several poems in the new The Widow's Handbook, just out from Kent State University Press. Learn more about Donna at





Post New Comment:
Oh, that is a masterpiece!
Posted 02/05/2014 02:34 PM
Forget the cleverness of the poem. I want to know if the guy is taking his turn at cooking. Without knowing more, I am nevertheless ticked by his presumption of requiring anything from his live-in cook.
Posted 02/05/2014 02:23 PM
Wilda Morris:
This poem is so REAL and so well-put!
Posted 02/05/2014 11:01 AM
Loved the poem. I've burned my share of beans.
Posted 02/05/2014 10:22 AM
I really admire poems that argue with themselves and come out ahead! Well done!
Posted 02/05/2014 10:13 AM
Oh I love this poem because I am a great mother, a great worker, a great person but the one aspect of life that I never enjoyed and still do not enjoy is cooking!!! We cannot all be goddesses of food. My daughter is wonderful, how I do not know but this restores my faith in all that I am and not in what I am not. I am laughing to myself here and will show this to my husband at the weekend. Maire in Ireland :)
Posted 02/05/2014 09:39 AM
Oh, yes.
Posted 02/05/2014 08:11 AM
Oh, how I can relate to this! Love it!
Posted 02/05/2014 07:43 AM
starting the morning with a smile--love this poem!
Posted 02/05/2014 06:59 AM
OMG!!!! Hilarious!!
Posted 02/05/2014 06:06 AM

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