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About this Poem 
“Though I’d rather make poems than anything else, I’ve discovered over the years that I really have only one way of doing things, and, on a good day, I can inhabit the primal pleasure of making almost anything. This poem tries to honor what seems to me both the meticulous work and the ineffable magic of making.”
—James Longenbach


Because the most difficult part about making something, also the best,
Is existing in the middle,
Sustaining an act of radical imagination,
I simmered a broth: onion, lemon, a big handful of mint.
The phone rang. So with my left 
Hand I answered it,
Sautéing the rice, then adding the broth
Slowly, one ladle at a time, with my right. What’s up?
The miracle of risotto, it’s easy to miss, is the moment when the husks dissolve,
Each grain of rice releasing its tiny explosion of starch.
If you take it off the heat just then, let it sit
While you shave the parmesan into paper-thin curls,
It will be perfectly creamy,
But will still have a bite.
There will be dishes to do, 
The moon will rise,
And everyone you love will be safe.

Copyright © 2017 by James Longenbach. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by James Longenbach. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

James Longenbach

James Longenbach

James Longenbach is the author of five poetry collections: Earthling (W. W. Norton, 2017), The Iron Key (W. W. Norton, 2012), Draft of a Letter (University of Chicago Press,, 2007), Fleet River (University of Chicago Press, 2003), and Threshold (University of Chicago Press, 1998). Also a literary critic, he is the Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester. He lives in Rochester, New York. 

by this poet

Stars rising like something said, something never
To be forgotten, shining forever—look

How still they are.

                Blind hunter crawling
Toward sunrise, then healed. 

He opened his eyes to find her waiting

—Afraid—and together they traveled
Lightly: requiring nothing

But a sense
At the end of August, when all
The letters of the alphabet are waiting,
You drop a teabag in a cup.
The same few letters making many different words,
The same words meaning different things.

Often you've rearranged them on the surface of the fridge.
Without the surface
They're repulsed by one another.

Here are
As an older man,
Graying, not stooped,
I saw the future:

Cold, tongue
Foam at the lips.
Excessive hope 

Seemed more
Than despair.
I ran great distances.
I stood in sunlight

Just to see my shadow,
Show it off.
For the first time I remember

My soul looked back.
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