Notes On A Poem About Compost
If I were to write a poem about my compost it would contain the following things:
Its beginning would be in the midst of things. In medias res, as Toni Morrison favors. Obviously because the process of compost matters more than its beginning or ending.
Lexicon: words warm with nitrogen, like sludgy, unctuous, thick. To show I really mean it, I’d dip into other languages. Composta, Kompost, SERCUS. Italian, German, LATIN.
I’d make up words, too. Soillusion, Soiliteration, Soilitude.
Major Theme: duality. My compost is me yet not me. A mirror of my living—it shows me the exact opposite of what I eat (edible/inedible). The what I don’t eat of what I eat.
Minor Theme: tomato seeds that end up in my compost come from roasted balsamic tomato soup. If you have eaten more than one meal at my home, you have probably had this soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. You’d remember it for its texture. Roast the tomatoes, run them through a food mill. The captured seeds go, en masse into my compost. When I henceforth use my compost, tomatoes grow where said compost has been spread. Those poor seeds have gone through figurative hell and high water to germinate.
Spiders would represent the unknown. There are so many spiders in my compost bin! Scientifically, I know why. Metaphysically, I do not. They unnerve me. Deeply. The stuff of nightmares. Translucent whitey-green, baby petals of High Light hydrangeas, with long articulate eyelashes for legs. I’d pour a big bag of acid-rich fertilizer into my poem to turn them blue. I could deal with poem-spiders better if they were euphonic in Endless Summer blue.
Protagonists and villains, there would be both. Good guys: brown leaves and grass clippings, the catalyst I sprinkle in the bin, dryer lint and shredded credit card receipts. Bad guys: dairy, meat-bones, and plastic.
Metonymy. It is literally so much more than what I could ever call it (see the next bullet point for further evidence of this). But not synecdoche. Definitely not synecdoche.
The poem would be full of the things that make up my compost. My mistakes (baking experiments gone bad), my negligence (leftovers). Apology flowers from unforgiven men, first date flowers impugned with chivalric alchemy.
Languorous, lazy similes: “dark as the coffee from my French press,” “rich as the avocado bits clinging to their peels,” “fragrant as the jasmine tea leaves (and arguably just as sweet, depending on one’s definition of sweet).” Maybe even borrow one from someone credible? “Teaming with bacteria; “the proletariat of soil”.” [Borrowed from Dan Barber’s The Third Plate: Notes on the Future of Food (2014).]
Personification. His or her (probably “her”) moods change with the seasons. Dependable, yet needy. Mysterious. Transformative. The type who considers Malbec a summer libation, is free with her elegant laugh and scribbles poems on napkins. (note to reader: I definitely did not compose this essay on a napkin.)
Form and function. Here I’m stuck. A big pile of words that tossed together? Lines in geological layers? Dumped in the center of the page? White type, a black background? A haiku?
Bursting with clichés and too many poetic devices. The kind of disgustingly overly precious writing.
Such a poem would pain me to write it; moreover, it would pain you to read it. That poem would be a big pile of garbage.
Dan Barber’s The Third Plate: Notes on the Future of Food. Should be required reading for all cooks, farmers, and eaters.
On changing the color of your hydrangeas: