The Invention of Cuisine

By Carol Muske-Dukes b. 1945 Carol Muske-Dukes
Imagine for a moment
the still life of our meals,
meat followed by yellow cheese,
grapes pale against the blue armor of fish.

Imagine a thin woman
before bread was invented,
playing a harp of wheat in the field.   
There is a stone, and behind her
the bones of the last killed,
the black bird on her shoulder
that a century later
will fly with trained and murderous intent.

They are not very hungry
because cuisine has not yet been invented.   
Nor has falconry,
nor the science of imagination.

All they have is the pure impulse to eat,   
which is not enough to keep them alive   
and this little moment
before the woman redeems
the sprouted seeds at her feet
and gathers the olives falling from the trees   
for her recipes.

Imagine. Out in the fields
this very moment
they are rolling the apples to press,
the lamb turns in a regular aura of smoke.

See, the woman looks once behind her   
before picking up the stone,
looks back once at the beasts,
the trees,   
that sky
above the white stream
where small creatures live and die   
looking upon each other
as food.

Carol Muske-Dukes, “The Invention of Cuisine” from Skylight (New York: Doubleday, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: An Octave Above Thunder: New and Selected Poems (Doubleday, 1997)

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Poet Carol Muske-Dukes b. 1945

Subjects Eating & Drinking

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Carol  Muske-Dukes


Carol Muske-Dukes was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1945. She earned a BA from Creighton University and an MA at San Francisco State University. Her collections of poetry include Camouflage (1975), Applause (1989), An Octave Above Thunder: New and Selected Poems (1997), Sparrow (2003), which was a National Book Award finalist, and Twin Cities (2011). In addition to poetry, Muske-Dukes has published two collections of essays, . . .

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SUBJECT Eating & Drinking

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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