A CELEBRATION – OF BUTTER!

Butter

My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter! Growing up
we ate turkey cutlets sauteed in lemon
and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,
butter melting in small pools in the hearts
of Yorkshire puddings, butter better
than gravy staining white rice yellow,
butter glazing corn in slipping squares,
butter the lava in white volcanoes
of hominy grits, butter softening
in a white bowl to be creamed with white
sugar, butter disappearing into
whipped sweet potatoes, with pineapple,
butter melted and curdy to pour
over pancakes, butter licked off the plate
with warm Alaga syrup. When I picture
the good old days I am grinning greasy
chase his tail and turn to butter. We are
Mumbo and Jumbo’s children despite
historical revision, despite
our parent’s efforts, glowing from the inside
out, one hundred megawatts of butter.

ELIZABETH ALEXANDER 

Most contemporary reports of butter are not celebratory. But this poem is not concerned with those reports. Its whirlwind cultural tour of the stuff begins with a look back to the narrator’s mother, who likes to eat it plain, in chunks. While other reports might stop here to pass comment, this poem chooses instead to propel us forward with further visions of butter, further celebrations. This poem is a radical one because it asks us to suspend our judgments for a few moments, even if we are to resume them after it ends. It invites us into a world in which butter is the lynchpin of ‘the good old days’, where butter is versatile and ever-present and delicious. By its last few lines, though, the poem seems to have aged. Somewhere along the way, our narrator gained some awareness of the cultural forces acting against butter: historical revision, our parent’s efforts. You might read the ‘one hundred megawatts of butter’ which closes the poem as a quasi-radioactive warning against it. I can’t help feeling, though, that this particular danger might have been worth it – at least for our narrator.

I hope you’re all doing okay, butter-eaters and non-butter eaters alike 🙂

All my love,
Tanvi

P.S. A poem I wrote in 2019 was recently published here. I wrote it on the eve of my father’s first chemotherapy session: I am grateful for his recovery.

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