2000 Pulitzer nominee Poetry

The Search Is Continuing, an Elegy

Loose Leaves, first published Tuesday 20 July 1999 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas

By Ben Pollock
Copyright 1999 Donrey Media Group

I got out of kindergarten one day —
Perhaps all us kids were free: Class canceled?
Jan-girl had the TV volume up high
So Mom, Sis, me would find no word muffled.

Dark horses, a long box with flag draping:
Gee whiz, gloom can fly into antennae?
Three-year-old in winter coat saluting
On such a sunny day, a little boy just like me.

When we click the Everything Box now
We soon regret there’s just one line of news.
Clicking channel to channel, all somehow
Report, “The search for the plane continues.”

It’s all we can do to keep death at bay;
A good theory: Take one day at a time.
Else eat, drink; when the sun shines roll the hay,
Expecting a giant’s leaps for mankind.

Some of us stave off death with routine,
Some block death’s glance with adventure.
We daily work grunts use the former scene,
Did you gamble three lives on the latter?

You have a wedding, attend others’ vows,
Did you try to live so long, taking no cuts?
Some in our group steer only toward big wows.
Let me paint a picture: “Still Life with Ruts.”

It’s fall again, two-hand touch so no harm,
cradling that football in the compound,
fending off all comers with the other arm.
We cannot let fate tackle those who bound.

Live as long as you can, return lobs,
Cruise through college, come what may.
Take a position, then find better jobs,
Hail, Business. By George, keep death away.

Avoid the limelight, your mom may have taught,
You then would be seen as better than most.
To stay a private public man, not caught,
Bar no tests, we saw few warts that’d cost.

John, you’re supposed to be better than us,
No, we expect you to be just like us.
Go ahead: Excel, lord it over us,
Risk your perks, waste gifts, mock our public trust.

Did peer John hit that late-thirtyish point
When we think we finally have crested.
There we dare to ask (maybe he didn’t),
Can descent on cliff or knoll be bested?

Starting middle years you have to wonder
Does eating sensibly really matter?
Why not sport at 38 with some wings?
No devil, you, but not yet an angel.

I, perhaps we, thought that you would remind
Us of Jack, Bob, Ted, after you turned gray.
Then, your own man, not to be left behind,
Run and win a Senate seat, come what may.

Sooner or later, right? That’s the motto
Of daredevil, playboy, sometimes a hero.
Why couldn’t you keep death an arm away?
Sorry it was sooner. Sorry it was you.

* * *

Several readers of the recent “Loose Leaves” column about bread have asked about details on sourdough in particular and baking in general.

I own several cookbooks with terrific bread recipes. Here are two books I especially recommend. Neither, however, covers bread machines.

For beginners, “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” by Mollie Katzen, $18.95, paperback 303 pages, 1995, new revised edition, Ten Speed Press.

If you’ve baked some already, “Bread Alone: Bold Fresh Loaves from Your Own Hands,” by Daniel Leader with Judith Blahnik, $25, hardcover, 332 pages, 1993, William Morrow & Co.

As requested, here is the Potato Herman Sourdough Starter. It came from the June 17, 1992, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Place 1 cup water, 1/2 cup table sugar and 3 tablespoons instant potato flakes in a 1-quart, non-metal jar and mix well with a nonmetal spoon. Cover jar with paper towel secured with rubber band (to allow the starter to breathe). Leave jar on counter for several days, stirring once a day. When real bubbly, feed Herman (recipe follows) and let sit on counter 3-4 hours, until bubbly again, then use or refrigerate.

To use in a sourdough-bread recipe, first mix required amount of Herman with an equal amount of flour and let sit out 3-4 hours.

Feed Herman after each use or weekly when not used. If not baking with Herman, dispose of 1 1/4 cups of starter then feed by adding 1 cup water, 1/2 cup table sugar and 3 tablespoons instant potato flakes. Stir with nonmetal utensil and recover jar with paper towel secured by rubber band. Refrigerate.


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