Theodore Worozbyt.jpg

Poetry from Theodore Worozbyt

followed by Q&A

Garum and Lark’s Tongues

Unlike Vallejo, I can’t name pain yellow,

and I imagine the color of garum less

vividly than I see the shallow stone vessel 

where it turns ripe and viscous.

Through studies of tabulas and scrolls,

I have ordered a pound of white truffles

overnight by jet to the contiguous states.

In the fourteen stations of the classical kitchen

I shave into a pillow of noodles 

scalded to the tooth and creamed. I want 

this bed I dream in covered with crisp roses

unhitched from their cut vase, the upholstery

of my crucible garnished with a layer of fungal

tissues fine enough for a brain-scan in the dark.

I want someone fat and pampered to roast

a clay-colored lump of foie gras in a web of caul,

some balsamic reduction sheened with butter 

to pattern my plate with a darker splash.

Vintage Mumm’s to rinse my palate 

of the spitted lark’s wine-dark breast

is what I want, and to be raised like a glass

myself, filled and bright and cold, to rise 

like whites of eggs beaten and folded 

and made golden by a flame. A toast!

Some rainy Thursday no one will show up

escaping from Paris with a sack filled with yeast

and a punk opera performed by Ukrainians

that climaxes in a hydrant of murderous passion

splashing beet-red and spraying twenty-three rows

with a juice indelibly flavored by the disgust

of children for blood-colored vegetables.

Butter an icicle radish with salt and cold

water from the hose and I will gnaw it in the sun.

Mash me a jar of fireflies and honey and blurb it

with the phosphored strokes of your fingertips.

Send me a recipe book filled with future errors

and haute glossies of yet another neutral country

where, having discovered nothing original

about love or time or pain; having discovered

only an image of the shape that contains them, 

I will not be seen traveling, or dining well.



Your Body

In the tiny hollow I planted the Peace rose and circled white wire around it to keep the ghosts out. Down the hill led to the creek where naked I threw the muddy water toward the sky and crawdaddys bit my feet. There was a tire swing that went everywhere but away. In its black round I ran barefoot down the roots and stones and leapt and threw myself around. Far up the creek lay the deep place by the trestle, and past that the pillows of granite rushing with clear curly rapids that purled around me as I slipped down arms up tasting the sweet mineral spray. I’d climb the hill back past the tangled windfall where the pine roots were exposed and crusted with red mud. And then the place where no one went was there, halfway up the hill, thick with fallen trunks, the moss on them densely quiet and small. 



White Truffles

I was late, the box was early, but the driver

returned and I signed. Inside, another box.

Inside that, a tiny bottle of oil

for making navy bean soup holy. The blender

sends a steam whose coiling saffron fragrance 

recalls summer’s links and brassy light,

and whose smoke spreads a sweet film over

my lips. At the bottom, the right-angle army 

green flashlight, heavy as a light sidearm 

when I heft it in my palm, my thumb pressed 

on the steel belt clip, and then toward the switch. 

The solid double click of the seed-sized 

button sends a beam along the books of my wall,

Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples,

the Modern Library row. I slide the switch back 

toward the dark and unscrew the thick, plastic, 

wire-eyed base, spilling filters on my bedspread, 

jeweled diffuser, white dimmer, the cobalt disc, 

the twin reds that look so much like light poured

through the skin of my hand that I shine the thing

straight into my eyes for a couple of seconds,

involuntary, and I seem to hear the crisp

grunt of taut twine popping, the noise 

of water at the shore that is the sound

of brown paper tearing, being torn. Here,

from then, rise the scents and images of distance,

a model kit for making the battleship trim

with decals and dangerous glue, the mess kit

of aluminum, the tines and spoon and dulled knife 

clipped inside by steel, a vague wartime 

of chocolate and stale shredded coconut bars

packed tight as a locker along crinkly sacks 

of K and C rations, tins of stiff crackers and jam. 

Dawn in the backyard woods with Bobby Ryan: 

we eat scrambled eggs I’ve browned over a granite-

circled fire. I suck my burned thumb 

and sniff the cold blue light of the dew. 

The mess kit’s clank bumps against the brass-eyed 

canvas of the tent. The poncho liner spreads

silky camouflage between dirt and my rump.

My Pekin duck quacks at the ribbed edge 

of her plastic pool. The dove-tailed, hinged and 

painted red boxes of my radium chemistry sets 

smell like this morning. The garden department at the old 

Sears on West Paces Ferry, with its outside

lit blue from within the walls, polishes the green 

air with molecules of lime and peat and pearly 

vermiculite as Grandpa unfolds the chunky leather

wallet from his hip and jokes with the girl 

as she bags a one-armed oscillating sprinkler for my garden.

He relights the stub of his cigar and the Zippo darkens

the mock shell of his holder. I peel away

sleek layers of husk to let him praise a tiny

ear of corn and he is standing outside 

my apartment door with my grandmother’s white gloves, 

she is holding a basket of Fireball tomatoes 

while I peek through the second story window, 

twitching from the night of line after line of pink 

coke and Buds, and watch his forehead turning 

red in the morning sun, and I know he knows 

I’m there but I don’t know how.

     I stroke the helmet-

sized shell of the turtle painted poison silver 

he found on Victory Drive on the way to the Post, 

and the summer light is webbing shadow though 

the shifting leaves of maples and ashes as I lie 

on top of the shingled doghouse where all the turtles

gave up and I am watching maggots boil 

though the tough flesh and the claws glitter like ground 

diamonds on leaf mulch and the worn dirt. Ivory

skulls strip clean and to hold them in my hand 

feels like skipping washed flat stones across 

the creek-pool where I splash and swim and he

takes pictures with the accordion Polaroid Land 

of my arms streaming up toward the laurels and the rinsed sky. 

I say the closet-smell of turtle shit 

is a fierce blessing, white as old candy pried 

from the living room where no one’s supposed to sit.

No one overhears, and the secret will be just 

between me, boxes named for me, and the slipcovers.



Theodore Worozbyt’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Image, Mississippi Review, Ploughshares, Po&sie, Poetry, Poetry Daily, Sentence, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Verse Daily and The Best American Poetry. His first book, The Dauber Wings (Dream Horse Press, 2006), won the first American Poetry Journal Book Prize, and his second, Letters of Transit, was the winner of the 2007 Juniper Prize and was published in 2008. Scar Letters, a chapbook, is online at Beard of Bees Press




Q: Discuss your process as a poet, what sparks a poem and how you work it through to completion (or abandonment.)

A: I try to pay attention, and not to abandon anything. 

This group of poems spans a decade or more. The prose poem is recent, but not the verse. 


Q: What did you collect as a child—rocks, insects, stamps?—and why?

A: I collected rocks and minerals; I still do. Everyone should own a copy of Herbert S. Zim’s Golden Guide to Rocks and Minerals. 


Q: Spread for us a repast of your choosing, a meal fit for a poet. 

A: I was for many years a professional cook, trained in the French system of apprenticeship, from potwasher to chef de cuisine, and I still love French food. Jacques Pèpin is a hero to me, and I think of him as the greatest living chef, the John Ashbery of gastronomy, a master so complete that any appearance of effort, like flame from brandy deglazing a pan, has disappeared. Mario Batali was asked to describe his ideal meal and he answered, “Anything that someone else cooks for me.” I love that. I remember my great grandmother and my grandmother standing in the kitchen, peeling and slicing the vegetables my grandfather had picked against their palms above the counter into the bowls, never on the cutting boards he had made, unless it was to slice the rectangular loaves of dense, heavy bread into thick slices to be spread with whipped butter instead of olive oil. There is an Italian dish that even Google can’t find, pasta padon, a thin tomato broth with lots of garlic and herbs and red pepper and vinegar, that is a kind of soup or stew of macaroni and potatoes, over which you grate a pile of Romano or Parmesan and devour with a big spoon. In the day it was made with the scraps of dried broken pasta of all kind you could get at the Italian grocer’s. In my past it was made with elbow macaroni. So delicious. So good. A re-past. Yes, I would love that.