National Poetry Month Day 15
“…I lost my nerve, slipped
a gold-foiled packet into her pocket
before they closed the coffin.”
I had the pleasure of hearing Leslie read this poem at a New Haven Poetry Institute monthly reading several years ago. Not only is McGrath a gifted poet, she is a gifted reader.
In her collection Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage, Leslie uses the very sensual vehicle of food to carry her insights, loves and griefs — and she is, in fact, an avid baker (of many things, including foods designed for the carrying of butter).
In Butter Soothed Her, the narrator shows restraint by choosing a less invasive gift of butter for her deceased grandmother than smearing it on “her sealed lips.” Instead, she slips a pat into grandmother’s pocket. Quick, quiet, but nonetheless. McGrath then brings all of the senses to bear on butter — touch, smell, taste — before moving into its properties as “ointment,/easing aches and blisters/from the journey…/even heavenward.” For me the poem turns at the end to a powerful wish for the departed, a sacred prayer, if you will, for safe travels to her rest.
From Leslie’s Website:
Leslie McGrath is a poet and literary interviewer. Winner of the 2004 Pablo Neruda Prize for poetry, she is the author of Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage (2009), a poetry collection, and two chapbooks, Toward Anguish (2007) and By the Windpipe (2014.) McGrath’s satiric novella in verse, Out From the Pleiades, was published by Jaded Ibis Press in December 2014. Her poems have appeared widely, most recently in The Awl, Agni, Salamander, and The Common. She teaches creative writing and literature at Central Connecticut State University and is series editor of The Tenth Gate, a poetry imprint of The Word Works press (Washington, DC.) She lives in Essex, CT with her husband Bill Taylor, a shipwright.