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Friday, January 29, 2016

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: January 2016

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun. 

This month I read The Best American Travel Writing 2006. Since I am still working on As Far As The Eyes Can See, I wanted to read travel pieces to help inspire my poetry. While these are articles and not poetry, the different stories did help inspire me. Alain de Botton's Discreet Charm of Zurich reminded me when I went to Switzerland in 2007. That was my first time abroad - I went to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with the German Club. I remember the flight over, the one German teacher (I wouldn't have him until I was a senior in high school) was translating some of Lufthansa's flight instructions for me, but I understood most of it. I appreciated it, though. Anyway, before I digress too much, I could relate to what de Botton wrote about Zurich, but Switzerland in general. I found Switzerland to be very bourgeois too, but safe. Not a lot goes on in Switzerland and the people are so calm - it's almost like a blase. Switzerland is beautiful, however, and I would go again.

Kira Salak's Rediscovering Libya through a camel trek across the desert really made me crave that adventure. How cool would it be to ride a camel in a caravan through the desert? The way Salak described the Libyan people, they were friendly. Most, unlike what the media portrays, really like Americans and welcome them with open arms. Though, nowadays I'm not sure if that's the same case as 2005. Even George Saunders's New Mecca, a piece about Dubai, writes about Dubai's modernization and how posh Dubai is compared to Saudi Arabia. I would really like to go to Dubai; Dubai is much like Switzerland and is very safe. People also seem really nice and Saunders meets a lot of great people. I really liked these passages the best:

I thoroughly enjoyed these articles from various authors. I was happy to see David Sedaris in this anthology - Turbulence made me chuckle. It was about a flight gone wrong - I have always loved Sedaris's dark humor. Even the food pieces were great. Best American Writing 2006 has really inspired me and I've been working on my poetry. Tomorrow when I go to work at the library I'll have to see if the recent books are in.

Austrian Snows

Jessica Marie

the sign warned
as we climbed
the snowy, winding, icy roads
to the hostel up in the Alps.

yet our driver
seems so nonplused.
He speeds up ahead
Austrian skies show the beginning of night.

despite the fury
of the snowflakes
the sky turns pink-purple
as the snow and sun rendezvous together.

the sky blackens
or turns gray.
Violent snow storms bleat us,
yet our bus trudges on through ice.

our bus skids,
we must slow.
Yet, it’s beautiful to watch
the April snows cover all pine trees.

the final hill!
We really slowed;
and in the distance I see
our quaint little hostel covered in snow.

even the rocks
are deeply buried
and out ahead I see
farmer’s sheep looking for our hostel too.

إبتسمت السمكة الطويلة في وجهي
أثقل من جبل
عيون السمك تحدق وابتسم
اتبع الظل؛
واذا تمنيت فاستكثر

(The long fish smiled at me,
heavier than the mountains.
The fish's eyes stare,
and laughs;
follow the shadow
if you wish, wish for more.)

The Adventures of Whole Fried Fish
Jessica Marie

Quickly chop the garlic,
                as it will make your fingers smell for days,
                                which is why I suggest doing this task first—
since all of the other vegetables for the tatbileh must be cut,
the garlic scent—it will keep vampires away; haha, remember that old joke from childhood?—
will rub off onto the jalapenos, or chipotles, or Anaheim peppers, or a combination of the three,
                depending on how adventuresome you feel.
                                Me, I would only chop an Anaheim along with a green bell pepper.
                                I’ve talked about this Palestinian adventure for so long—
                                the dangers of reading a cookbook from a top New York City restaurant;
                                                an idea planted so firmly in my head, why not try?
I chattered with excitement as I bought the vegetables. The grocer pointed me into the right direction,
                “You’ll have to tell me how this recipe turns out! It sounds interesting and adventurous.”
                                “I sure will! I will even have pictures!”
                He certainly did lead me to the best peppers.
Soaking the Anaheim and long green hot pepper in the sink next to the parsley,
letting the cold faucet water sprinkle on them
                as I begin to chop the shallot—
                                ah, I hate when this happens,
                                as the water wells around my eyes,
                                my eyelashes become moist,
                                no, I’m not crying about how my life turned out,
                                no, I’m not crying about surviving:
                                I should cry for all of the refugees—
                                who can’t even eat, let alone their favorite dish,
                quickly, I violently thrust the knife through
                working at warp speed to get the shallots done.
I wipe my eyes on my shirt sleeve
and wash my hands before I start cutting the peppers.
                I go hotter tonight—my parents are joining in on the fun.
                                “What’s this dish like?” they inquired—
                                “it’s amazing! The branzino is subtle, almost like cold!
                                The tatbileh really adds zest as well!”
                                “Sounds good, even if the eyes stare back,” dad laughed.
                                I laugh, “we’re eating like the people in Nazareth,
                                the recipe comes from there—it brings Muslims, Jews, and Christians together
                                and they eat in peace.”
Turning around, I begin chopping the Anaheim pepper,
which had been hanging out in the cold shower—
the spigot sprinkling water as the green dude hangs out in the bowl with parsley.
They look like green log rings; I pierce the seeds
and flick them into the sink. Seeds pack heat, or so I hear.
I group the Anaheim logs with the shallots and garlic,
                next to the long hot green pepper—a few lily pads for mom and I,
                the rest for dad—I make sure to really discard the seeds
                and wash my hands well to avoid eye burning.
Parsley, who can forget the parsley?
Because it has soaked for so long, the cold water bath freezes my hands,
                they shrivel at the touch. I quickly cut,
                the leaves begin to look like confetti and like New Year’s Eve at 11:59,
                                I begin to throw the Emerald confetti into the blender.
                                And like at midnight, the confetti settles after a brief flight in the air.
                I add the other vegetables along with the petite pear, juicy, I cut.
                                This wasn’t in the recipe book, but I thought it would add
                                a nice, juicy sweetness to the tatbileh.
                Everything is cozy, comfortably packed near the blades.
                Pulsing, the blades whir to a spin.
                A few more pulses, the consistency like relish. Perfect!
I begin to slice open the branzino,
I also chattered with excitement as I bought the fish,
the fish monger showing me where they kept the best branzino;
I look at their faces; the eyes just stare.
                I carefully pick out the three best fish, their faces have personality,
                different personalities, I pick based off of which would match our personalities—
                the fish monger carefully picks them up and wraps them in butcher paper.
Their marble eyes stare at me, at first in judgement,
almost pleading with me not to fry them. Now they are indifferent.
It is almost hard to pierce their flesh; they are hearty;
but once I slit is made, I violently stuff the cavity with tatbileh.
The flour I mix with salt, cumin, pepper, clove, I carefully stitch the incisions,
the fishes are dredged, single file and one at a time, fully and it becomes ghostlike.
Only frying in olive oil, eyes glazed over,
                does he become alive…
                he brings us around the table,
                brings us all together—
                                not only as a family, but people of the world,
                                we laugh and tell stories
as we devour
                his sustenance with tatbileh.


  1. Wow! That post was a mouthful--of words, and fish! Good luck with your poetry!
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Veronica! I am feeling more confident about my poetry book now. I just can't wait to share my stories. :)


  2. Travel writing is always fun. How cool that you were exploring the same part of the world at around the same time.

    1. I LOVE travel writing! Travel poetry is interesting too. :D

      I know, it's amazing! I want to plan a trip to Dubai, then write an updated article on it. I want to go to Dubai and use my Arabic.

  3. Being in Dubai as a single female, I must say the people didn't seem quite so nice to me. ;) But I think part of the problem was that I had let my family and friends' negativity about going to the UAE seep into my brain and make me paranoid.

    1. That might have been it! I have some online contacts from that neck of the woods and they have been nothing but nice. I tend to find most people nice, but of course I always take caution. Maybe one of these days. Did you find Dubai to be extremely expensive?