Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Yogurt: the official food of women

My sister came home from work today excited to show me a video she'd seen online about yogurt. "It's hilarious," she said. I was skeptical. But, sure enough, I laughed so hard I ached.

Naturally, I wanted to post this piece of genius to my blog. But how? This video has nothing to do with poetry or monkeys. If only I could find some kind of monkey-yogurt connection or even a poem about yogurt.

Via the wonder that is Google, I plugged "monkey" and "yogurt" into the search field. Lo and behold, Frozen Monkey Yogurt is an actual establishment located in California. They serve frozen yogurt. No monkeys, thankfully. Currently there is only one location, in Torrance, but the site says one is opening in Pasadena soon and I'll be sure to send my best friend Lisa, who lives near there, to check it out and report back.

As for poetry, well, thanks to Anne Carson, there's a poem that features yogurt, in the first four and a half stanzas anyway. "Kitchen" is a section of a longer poem titled “The Glass Essay."


Kitchen is quiet as a bone when I come in.
No sound from the rest of the house.
I wait a moment
then open the fridge.

Brilliant as a spaceship it exhales cold confusion.
My mother lives alone and eats little but her fridge is always crammed.
After extracting the yogurt container

from beneath a wily arrangement of leftover blocks of Christmas cake
wrapped in foil and prescription medicine bottles
I close the fridge door. Bluish dusk

fills the room like a sea slid back.
I lean against the sink.
White foods taste best to me

and I prefer to eat alone. I don’t know why.
Once I heard girls singing a May Day song that went:
Violante in the pantry
Gnawing at a mutton bone
How she gnawed it
How she clawed it
When she felt herself alone.
Girls are cruelest to themselves.
Someone like Emily Brontë,
who remained a girl all her life despite her body as a woman,

had cruelty drifted up in all the cracks of her like spring snow.
We can see her ridding herself of it at various times
with a gesture like she used to brush the carpet.

Reason with him and then whip him!
was her instruction (age six) to her father
regarding brother Branwell.

And when she was 14 and bitten by a rabid dog she strode (they say)
into the kitchen and taking red hot tongs from the back of the stove applied
them directly to her arm.

Cauterization of Heathcliff took longer.
More than thirty years in the time of the novel,
from the April evening when he runs out the back door of the kitchen
and vanishes over the moor

because he overheard half a sentence of Catherine’s
(“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff”)
until the wild morning

when the servant finds him stark dead and grinning
on his rainsoaked bed upstairs in Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff is a pain devil.

If he had stayed in the kitchen
long enough to hear the other half of Catherine’s sentence
(“so he will never know how I love him”)

Heathcliff would have been set free.
But Emily knew how to catch a devil.
She put into him in place of a soul

the constant cold departure of Catherine from his nervous system
every time he drew a breath or moved thought.
She broke all his moments in half,

with the kitchen door standing open.
I am not unfamiliar with this half-life.
But there is more to it than that.

Heathcliff’s sexual despair
arose out of no such experience in the life of Emily Brontë,
so far as we know. Her question,

which concerns the years of inner cruelty that can twist a person into a pain devil,
came to her in a kindly firelit kitchen
(“kichin” in Emily’s spelling) where she

and Charlotte and Anne peeled potatoes together
and made up stories with the old house dog Keeper at their feet.
There is a fragment

of a poem she wrote in 1839
(about six years before Wuthering Heights) that says:
That iron man was born like me
And he was once an ardent boy:
He must have felt in infancy
The glory of a summer sky.
Who is the iron man?
My mother’s voice cuts across me,
from the next room where she is lying on the sofa.

Is that you dear?
Yes Ma.
Why don’t you turn on a light in there?

Out the kitchen window I watch the steely April sun
jab its last cold yellow streaks
across a dirty silver sky.
Okay Ma. What’s for supper?

(Anne Carson, from Glass, Irony, and God,1995 New Directions Publishing.)

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