Poetry Moment: 'Ode to Butter', by Rebecca Lauren

14 days ago

Published November 20, 2023 at 9:19 AM EST

This is poetry moment on WPSU – a weekly program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Your host is poet and author Marjorie Maddox, a 2023 Monson Arts Fellow, and professor of English and creative writing at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University. 

Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pies! No matter your favorite Thanksgiving treat, it’s a good bet that butter has a place in the recipe or at the table. Today’s poem is for all who may indulge a bit too much on Turkey Day, but especially for those who lick their lips for butter.

Rebecca Lauren grew up in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley and currently lives in Philadelphia, where she serves as managing editor of Saturnalia Books. Her chapbook, The Schwenkfelders, won the Keystone Chapbook Prize and was published by Seven Kitchens Press. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award.

Rebecca Lauren loves butter. She explains, “Butter is a celebration of the joy that food brings, the reminder of all that is sensual, and the paradox of the salty and saccharine nature of our existence. It deserves its own song of praise.”

During this week of gratitude—for all that is good and delicious—here’s “Ode to Butter” by Rebecca Lauren.
- - -
Oh Slippery Sweet Remnant of Animal
Fat, who spun and spun to thick liquid magic,
I could take you on my tongue anytime, anywhere,
could drag you slowly along the corners
of Portuguese rolls, or sizzle a spat of you
in skillets of broccoli spears, asparagus,
filet mignon, or lightly breaded chicken.

Oh Luminous Yellow-White Orb, you pool
in the caverns of mashed potatoes, roll
in your sexy heat down the sides
of pancake stacks. My mother always said
I’d marry the first man who could watch
me eat sweet Jersey corn-on-the-cob without dying
of jealousy (or was it shame?) when you slide
down my chin like an unruly trail of holy oil,
collecting on my lips, my neck, my cleavage,
so warm, so bright, so much salt and husk.

At our church’s chicken suppers, you flaunted
your Sunday best in tiny molded florets.
I would’ve popped you one by one into my mouth
if the pastor wasn’t looking, would have taken you
whole on my tongue, rolled you around like a caramel.
But the holy ladies were crooning Amazing Grace
to a soundtrack in three-part harmony, so smearing
your lonely floral goodness on my dinner roll
was as lugubrious as I could get in the dimming light.

Oh Butter, Glorious One, Holiest of Condiments,
to me you are the whole meal, le crème de la crème,
my morning coffee, my evening dessert and everything
in between. Without you, I cannot walk the road
of French toast, steamed vegetables, or lemon pound cake.
In sticks, tubs, foil pads, squeezie bottles, or plastic squares,
I will love you until my dying breath, until my arteries clog
beyond repair. Yes Butter, my love, I would even die for you.

- - -  

That was “Ode to Butter” by Rebecca Lauren.

Listen for Poetry Moment with Marjorie Maddox Mondays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WPSU. You can more episodes at wpsu.org/poetrymoment.

Our theme music is by Eric Ian Farmer.

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