Cursing Lessons

By Jackie Craven

Featured art: look, quick by Emma Stefanoff

I am learning to bake curses
the way my mother did
with paprika and clotted cream.
Her recipe book lists fifteen steps
and she’s added three more,
her instructions scrawled
on pages brittle as phyllo dough. 
I trace my fingers over every word
and try to understand the significance
of Simmer on Low. I’ve heard
that if you heat a kettle gently,
a frog can’t feel the water boil. But
what to do about the grumble
from the dining room, the hungry command
to hurry up? Nothing my mother served
could please my father,
who poured Tabasco into a slow-cooked stifatho
and called her a stupid cow.
I lean against the round shoulders
of the old refrigerator and listen
to her murmur. I’m grown now
and married and need to know––
When is it time to whisk, when to fold,
when to toss with newts and toads?

Jackie Craven has recent poems in AGNIThe Massachusetts ReviewPleiadesPloughsharesPoet Lore, and River Styx. She’s the author of SECRET FORMULAS & TECHNIQUES OF THE MASTERS (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2018) and a fiction chapbook, OUR LIVES BECAME UNMANAGEABLE (Omnidawn, 2016), winner of the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Award. In her work as a journalist, she writes about architecture, visual art, and travel.

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