cooking risotto (or why I love my life). A prose poem by Hillary Keel


cooking risotto (or why i love my life)

—a new recipe small pieces
of asparagus & shrimp lemon juice
prepared in separate pan & I think
of G.—when did I last cook risotto when
did I last eat asparagus in March
of which year

I am transported to Austrian spring
crispy temperature a field of brooks
where we pick birds’ lettuce
we hike we cook
there is sex there is spring
& asparagus some cress &
birds’ lettuce picked at the brook
I stir risotto & think how this recipe
diverges from G.’s—to place inch-sized
asparagus pieces in bowl of ice water
I’ll try but remember

the warm bed & kitchen asparagus
on dishes on linen now I add shrimp
& garlic lemon juice—
like the good food we had & this
takes my breath away—how food
was good how he disliked the
way I chopped anything—he couldn’t
tolerate my kitchen skills but the food
was good linen fresh the bed warm
& the brook ice cold in the ice cold

the image welling the time
I gave—the joy of—

how I am in Brooklyn
my own job & bag full of books how he’d
wear an apron w/his name stitched on
by the girlfriend before me the one
he’d devastated & betrayed before me
no betrayal it was an open relationship
though she’d given him all before
I was ready to bear
his young

the food now in Brooklyn
Austrian radio streams online
I find comfort in those voices
& references to U.S. culture

food on American bubble plates
news turns to program
on misunderstood songs:

The Police: I’ll Be Watching You
as I eat shrimp asparagus risotto
“eine krankhafte, einseitige Liebe”
the Austrian journalist explains as if
no one had noticed that before—well
maybe not the Austrians
but who cares?

I am a senior in college at parties
dancing to this song who cares
about the disease it’s a fucking
great song & soon I’ll fall for the
Virginia townie who hangs out on
campus where he wears a bandana
and plays Frisbee he’s a local carpenter
& though I study German & want to depart
I fall for this man’s grin who takes me to
West Virginia in his truck with the dog
in the back it is spring in West Virginia
down rural curvy road & blooming apple
trees & I can’t believe my eyes to be in
that back woods place & so stoned I cannot
speak & so in love with this man I never
want to leave any sort of Virginia

then Austrian radio goes to another
misunderstood song & its No Woman
No Cry & the journalist explains why
people misunderstand this song & I’m
eating shrimp risotto drunk on garlic
& lemon juice on a Monday afternoon
& there’s my Nigerian friend Dele who
taught me to eat with my hands in Vienna
explaining this song—doesn’t everyone know
this?—the singer consoles a woman

how consoled I was at the America Latina
where Dele sang w/ his reggae band
on Mollardgasse in the 6th district
where the drugs were as my neo-liberal
anti-foreigner family explained
so I went right there & these
drugs were NOTHING like in the states
& I was consoled by a wee bit of ‘shit’ (sheet)
& the reggae music & the Chilean waiter
who I’d make out with on my way to the WC

& today it’s shrimp risotto
as good risotto should be
this funny recipe minus linen cloth
plus paper clips & graded essays
but the food & the music

this is what I love—have loved about my life.

Return to Journal

Hillary Keel lives at a remote location in New York State where she teaches German & The German Fairy Tale at Hunter College in Manhattan. She also writes poetry, works as a hypnotherapist, and loves to translate. She has poetry and translations published in Europe and the USA.

Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie's first novel, Stillwater, will be released in the spring of 2023. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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