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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jack O'Lantern

The other night, the ex-roommate and I had our monthly supper:  this time, he stirred up some scrumptious beef stew, and of course being Cajun, he started with a roux, the way all good dishes begin.  My contribution was to make the cornbread - which wasn't much work, coming straight out of the Jiffy box.  But the two things together were just larruppin' good, boys.  I tell you what.

Later, after much good talk and good wine, we had fresh pumpkin pie for dessert.  The ex-r scooped out a great big pumpkin as usual, and being an artist made another lovely jack o'lantern, which he is rather good at.  Here's this year's Jack:

Which has gotten to be a little tradition between us.  And so a good time was had by all, and I came home with a quart jar of stew that I'm still working on, very happily.

And to make another tradition for this blog, here's something I wrote for the first Jack, reprinted from the original post in 2008:

Jack O'Lantern

What was it like, growing fat and lopsided, a homely thing
there in the warm, dark earth, leaved over and hardly noticed?

Only a pumpkin, you said to yourself, and sighed,
earthbound, tethered by a restraining vine,
wistfully admiring the tall apple trees,
the high, bright cherry boughs
dancing in the sky,
the glinting fruits and nimble berries,
all so sought-after, all so prized.

But you knew your fate
was never to be loved like that,
never praised and petted,
tenderly handled, highly graded,
stamped with approval,
waxed and polished to a shine,
wrapped in tissue paper,
carried home in exultation,
exclaimed over and delighted in,
savored in merriment, enjoyed in laughter.

You knew you were too heavy, too big, too dull, too low:
At best, to end up part of a pie, half baked or overdone,
the afterthought of a glorious meal, waiting lonely and
untouched at the end of a groaning board.

A humble end, a small purpose.
Not much to speak of.
And so you grew, silent,
Waiting for the knife
To end the wait.
Quiet. Still.
Expecting not.

And yet one day, against all hope,
when pumpkin time was nearly at an end
and you had grown beyond your ripeness,
The hand of the Artist picked you up,
set you high, and with the tenderest knife
in all creation gave you, finally,
a face,
a lovely one,
oh surpassing lovely.
Made you smile, at last,
as you never believed you could.

For once,
Your lowly pumpkin heart
thumped a bright rhythm of joy:
Touched, healed, redeemed,
perfected there at the last,
so unexpected, against all hope.

And that smile lit up the night,
banished darkness, engendered joy.
Delight beamed from you, filled with light;
and delight and exultation glowed back upon you.

For that one lovely, shining moment you were born
and grew and ripened, all unknown, unknowing,
all unaware.

And now your light is spent, your smile
drooping, sagging, melting in decay.
But you return to earth happy,
oh so very very happy:

"I lived and I was loved,
I had a purpose after all,
I gave delight.
I did not sprout in vain,
I had a face, I had a name—

I was Jack o'Lantern."

poem and photo copyright 2008 by Russ Manley
artwork by the Moon King


David said...

That sounds like the perfect evening Russ. A good meal, some wine, chat, and something creative.

And just so you know, I'm a fairly experienced cook and I still think Jiffy cornbread is pretty hard to beat.

dave said...

Great post, Russ!

Russ Manley said...

David - Jiffy is tops, and so cheap too.

dave - thanks man.

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