I bought a few ears of butter & sugar corn at a farm stand yesterday morning. All afternoon-- through grading assignments, doing laundry, revising a poem, walking the dog—I let thoughts of sweet corn move through me. Rather, I let the textures and possibilities of taste rise and fall through the permeable membrane of my consciousness. I have a fine taste memory, as I think many cooks have. I can taste ingredients, combinations of ingredients. It’s been very hot and humid, so I’d made a mild chicken salad with red grapes, tarragon, and toasted pecans for supper. Corn with a spritz of lime juice? I had a bright fruit note in the chicken salad. A jazzed-up caprese salad? No, two dishes with the same texture. Creamed corn? Not on such a hot day. I remembered my new corn zipper early in the afternoon, and while stripping the kernels from their cobs, a few thoughts came. Not just about the corn dish.
The corn zipper strips three rows of kernels at a time in long pieces. I picked one up and looked closely at the cut side, where three white rows were weeping a very sweet juice. Tercets, I thought, long-lined tercets. I sat at the desk and tried a revision of an elegy I’ve been wrestling with for months. Did the weeping kernels point me in the direction of the elegy? Did the long three-row piece nudge me to try a different tack? As I shifted the lines around, I thought, chipotle, the sweet bite of corn needs a masculine pairing and an aggressive cooking technique. There it was: a quick corn fry with bits of smoky chipotle. There it was: another window into a poem that had felt sealed, ungenerous.