Eileen Myles – An American Poem

 

I was born in Boston in
1949. I never wanted
this fact to be known, in
fact I’ve spent the better
half of my adult life
trying to sweep my early
years under the carpet
and have a life that
was clearly just mine
and independent of
the historic fate of
my family. Can you
imagine what it was
like to be one of them,
to be built like them,
to talk like them
to have the benefits
of being born into such
a wealthy and powerful
American family. I went
to the best schools,
had all kinds of tutors
and trainers, traveled
widely, met the famous,
the controversial, and
the not-so-admirable
and I knew from
a very early age that
if there were ever any
possibility of escaping
the collective fate of this famous
Boston family I would
take that route and
I have. I hopped
on an Amtrak to New
York in the early
‘70s and I guess
you could say
my hidden years
began. I thought
Well I’ll be a poet.
What could be more
foolish and obscure.
I became a lesbian.
Every woman in my
family looks like
a dyke but it’s really
stepping off the flag
when you become one.
While holding this ignominious
pose I have seen and
I have learned and
I am beginning to think
there is no escaping
history. A woman I
am currently having
an affair with said
you know  you look
like a Kennedy. I felt
the blood rising in my
cheeks. People have
always laughed at
my Boston accent
confusing “large” for
“lodge,” “party”
for “potty.” But
when this unsuspecting
woman invoked for
the first time my
family name
I knew the jig
was up. Yes, I am,
I am a Kennedy.
My attempts to remain
obscure have not served
me well. Starting as
a humble poet I
quickly climbed to the
top of my profession
assuming a position of
leadership and honor.
It is right that a
woman should call
me out now. Yes,
I am a Kennedy.
And I await
your orders.
You are the New Americans.
The homeless are wandering
the streets of our nation’s
greatest city. Homeless
men with AIDS are among
them. Is that right?
That there are no homes
for the homeless, that
there is no free medical
help for these men. And women.
That they get the message
—as they are dying—
that this is not their home?
And how are your
teeth today? Can
you afford to fix them?
How high is your rent?
If art is the highest
and most honest form
of communication of
our times and the young
artist is no longer able
to move here to speak
to her time…Yes, I could,
but that was 15 years ago
and remember—as I must
I am a Kennedy.
Shouldn’t we all be Kennedys?
This nation’s greatest city
is home of the business-
man and home of the
rich artist. People with
beautiful teeth who are not
on the streets. What shall
we do about this dilemma?
Listen, I have been educated.
I have learned about Western
Civilization. Do you know
what the message of Western
Civilization is? I am alone.
Am I alone tonight?
I don’t think so. Am I
the only one with bleeding gums
tonight. Am I the only
homosexual in this room
tonight. Am I the only
one whose friends have
died, are dying now.
And my art can’t
be supported until it is
gigantic, bigger than
everyone else’s, confirming
the audience’s feeling that they are
alone. That they alone
are good, deserved
to buy the tickets
to see this Art.
Are working,
are healthy, should
survive, and are
normal. Are you
normal tonight? Everyone
here, are we all normal.
It is not normal for
me to be a Kennedy.
But I am no longer
ashamed, no longer
alone. I am not
alone tonight because
we are all Kennedys.
And I am your President.

Eileen Myles, “An American Poem” from Not Me, published by Semiotext(e). Copyright © 1991 by Eileen Myles.   

Mdardara For People Who Can Only Do One Thing at a Time

Mdardara is a Lebanese lentil and rice pilaf with caramelized onions. It’s vegan and legitimately the best tasting thing in the entire world. I used to make this dish in a single pot but my brain has since short-circuited. Now I cook everything separately and combine it all at the end.

Servings: YOU DO YOU

  • 3 large purple onions (if you’re not a caramelized onion lifer like me, use small or medium onions)
  • 1 cup of brown lentils (rinsed)
  • 1 cup of basmati rice
  • 1 cup of veggie broth (I like the Better than Boullion No Chicken base)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon of cumin, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander, ground
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (for caramelizing the onions)
  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil (you can sub olive oil if you want)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)
  • Half of a lemon
  • pinch of sugar

CARAMELIZING ONIONS THE NIKKI WAY (45 minutes)

  1. Slice the onions! Try to shoot for slices that are 1/8 of an inch thick.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large (12″ or larger) pan over medium-low heat. I like cast iron pans.
  3. Put onions in the pan. Try to spread them out across the bottom so they aren’t stacked way high.
  4. If you’re using a cast iron, stir and flip the onions every 10-15 minutes. If you’re using any other kind of pan, stir the onions every 5-10 minutes with a wooden spoon. Be sure to scrape and stir the onion muck that sticks to bottom of the pan, no matter the pan material. It’s gonna stick and that needs to be okay with you.
  5. After 30 minutes, sprinkle a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt into the onion pile, then stir again.
  6. After 45 minutes, the onions should be a cool combination of soft and crispy. Add a little water to the pan to deglaze, then scrape everything out of the pan. You’re done!

MAKE RICE

If you have an electric pressure cooker, follow these instructions to cook the rice. Seriously! Do it! Use broth for more flavor. Otherwise:

  1. Rinse the rice in a strainer. Use cold water!
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 clove of chopped garlic into a pot at the same time. It’s not good to let the oil get really hot before adding garlic!
  3. Turn on medium-high heat. When the oil starts to sizzle, pour in uncooked rice. Stir it all together for about 2 minutes, or until the rice starts to look translucent. Don’t burn it! Keep stirring!
  4. Add 1 and 1/2 cups of water or broth and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil.
  5. When the water starts boiling, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce heat to low.
  6. Simmer on low for about 25 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.

MAKE LENTILS

Combine 1 cup of lentils, 2 cups water, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 25 minutes uncovered. The lentils may still be a bit firm at the end, but that’s okay.

MAKE MAGIC

  1. Grab a big pot or pan that can hold everything. It can be the pan in which you caramelized those beautiful onions.
  2. Add in cooked lentils. Turn on the heat, medium-low.
  3. Add cooked rice.
  4. Add onions.
  5. Stir stir stir! Let it heat up together for a few minutes. If the lentils were still a little tough, you can add some water and cook it all together a little longer. Do what you have to do, you know? It’s going to be SO GOOD.
  6. Squeeze half a lemon in it!!! More if you’re nasty. Stir it up.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. I usually skip the salt but I love black pepper.
  8. Serve to people you love or are learning to love.

Basmati Rice in an Electric Pressure Cooker

I have a 6 quart Bella Housewares electric pressure cooker. It’s reliable, but not much of a workhorse. Unlike the Instant Pot, which cooks at about 11 psi, the Bella tops out around 9 psi. No big deal–I just add a few extra minutes of cooking time when following recipes designed for the Instant Pot.

In the case of basmati rice, 2 extra minutes (a total of 5 minutes at high pressure in the Bella) does the trick.

This is how I cook basmati rice in my little pressure cooker. And because I care about you and your needs, I’ll also tell you how to cook it in an Instant Pot.

you need: 

1 cup white basmati rice

1 1/4 cups of water or broth

1/2 tablespoon coconut or extra virgin olive oil

pinch of salt

1 garlic clove, minced (you can skip this if you have poor taste)

  1. Put the pressure cooker into Saute mode.
  2. Add oil and garlic at the same time.
  3. When garlic starts turning a light golden brown, add the uncooked rice.
  4. Stir the rice with a wooden spoon frequently for about 2 minutes or until the rice starts to turn translucent. Don’t let it brown or burn!
  5. Add water and pinch of salt.
  6. Cook on manual pressure cooking mode for 5 minutes (under 10 psi) or 3 minutes (Instant Pot – high).
  7. Let the pressure release naturally for a maximum of 10 minutes.
  8. Now you have rice.

Kate Jayroe – Black Blooded Hen

Read this amazing short shorty called “Black Blooded Hen” by one of my favorite writers, Kate Jayroe, at Shirley Magazine.

And after that, check out this 5 question interview with Kate at NANO Fiction. I think it’s my favorite interview ever. Ever!!!

Embarrassing old stories: Sea Shepherd

Once upon a time I wrote a story about Celine Dion the Anarchist for a college writing class. I still think it’s a miracle that they let me graduate. Here it is.

 Read More »

Stephanie Wong Ken – Face

Stephanie Wong Ken’s short story “Face” is my favorite of her works. I’ve read it so many times I’ve lost count. I’m so excited to see it not only published by Cosmonauts Avenue, but also awarded their Inaugural Fiction Prize!

Read “Face” at Cosmonauts Avenue, and keep your eye on Stephanie Wong Ken.

She also does the best Drake karaoke.

PSU MFA Alumni Reading with Sara Jaffe

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Dryland, by Sara Jaffe (Tin House Books)

On December 4, I’ll be reading at the Portland State MFA Alumni reading with special guest Sara Jaffe (author of Dryland), as well as alumni Matthew Robinson (author of The Horse Latitudes), Karolinn Fiscaletti, Michael Magnes, and Lynn Otto at Blackfish Gallery. Sara has a really cute baby.

420 NW 9th Ave. PDX.