One Hundred Megawatts

of Butter
Thanksgiving 2016 | A Menu Poem
Guest of Honor : Elizabeth Alexander

Buffalo, New York
Thanksgiving Menu-Poem 2016, One Hundred Megawatts of Butter and Chorus of Life
Copyright © 2016 by Geoffrey Gatza

Published by BlazeVOX [books]

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without
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Thanksgiving Menu
One Hundred Megawatts Of Butter
Crab Velouté with Sherry and Blue Crab Roe
Lemon Zest Tuile

Turkey Cutlets Sautéed in Lemon and Butter

Penko Crusted Fish Cakes with Mango Vinaigrette
Grilled Hearts of Palm, Macadamia Nuts, Mizuna Salad

Lemon Bergamot Sorbet with Honeycomb Meringue

Family Style Dinner:
Roast Chicken with Gravy and Rice
Butter And Cheese on Green Noodles
Baked Potato with Sour Cream and Butter
Butter Glazed Corn
Hominy Grits Cakes with Porcini Mushrooms
Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Pineapple
Shaved Lemon and Fennel Confit

Fresh Mission Figs on a Bed Of Crepes,
Beurre Noisette And Warm Alaga Syrup.

Coffee & Chinese Almond Cookie & A Snifter Of Warmed Cognac

Hello and welcome to the 2016 Thanksgiving menu poem.
This is the fifteenth incarnation of the Thanksgiving Menu-Poem!
Our guest of honor is the wonderful Elizabeth Alexander. This
series began in 2002 with a Menu-Poem to honor Charles
Bernstein, and since then this series engages Thanksgiving as the
basis to celebrate poetry, poets and the poetry community. Being a
trained professional chef I have blended my love of food and
poetry into a book-length work as a feast of words to bring
everyone a tiny bit closer together.
This project is a conceptual meal served for the thousands
of friend I would love to have over to our home on Thanksgiving
Day. Since it is unavoidably impossible to even consider doing
such a thing in real life, I have designed a menu of foodstuffs that
reflect upon the guest of honor as a person, a poet and their
poetry. These works directly respond to our surrounding
environment and uses everyday experiences as a starting point. Often these are framed instances that would go
unnoticed in their original context. With a conceptual approach, this menu-poem tries to increase the dynamic
between audience and author by objectifying emotions and investigating the duality that develops through different
It is my great pleasure to host Elizabeth Alexander as this year’s Guest of Honor. As one of America’s
premier poets it was a very easy choice to make. Her accomplishments are too numerous to mention here, but
briefly I would like to draw your attention to a few of her many accolades. Currently Professor Alexander is a
Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, she was a finalist for the politer prize for her 2005 book, American
Sublime and her poem “Praise Song for the Day” was commissioned for the inauguration of President Barack Obama in
2009. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards; most recently she was presented the prestigious
Schomburg Medal, awarded by the New York Public Library and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
on the Center’s 90th anniversary. Dr. Alexander is also an influential voice in the Cave Canem poetry workshop, a
community she helped to foster for 20 years. She has been a mentor, advocate and friend to many poets, many of
whom have gone on to the national stage such as Kevin Young, Natasha Trethewey, Tracy K. Smith, Evie Shockley,
and Terrance Hayes.

* * *

Food and cuisine are very important elements in Elizabeth Alexander poetry. They take shape in many
forms and fashions in her work, such as in the vegetables in Autumn Passage, the comfort foods in Butter, or as the
desire for a Coke and a hamburger in Apollo after the seeming disappointment that the moon is not in fact made of
cheese, green or otherwise. The citrus and bergamot flavors and poppy seed cake bring her closer to an imagined
Sylvia Plath who is setting her hair in The female seer will burn upon this pyre. These foods often portrayed the human
element, the invisible hunger, the humanizing factor in a world that sees her as other, a person that is often not
allowed to be where she should be, the person who is spat at lost and seeking directions. They are also the shown to
be the comforts of the world through its foods such as the figs, string cheese, apricots, olives, and stuffed grape
leaves in the poem Boston Year. In her poem Crash, Alexander describes her survival from a small plane crash in a
cornfield near Philly. She writes:

All the white passengers bailed out
before impact, so certain a sister

couldn't navigate the crash. O gender.
O race. O ye of little faith.

Here we are in the cornfield, bruised and dirty but alive.
I invite sistergirl pilot home for dinner

at my parents', for my mother's roast chicken
with gravy and rice, to celebrate.
Food is that celebration. When I first devised this menu, I had planned an elaborate meal of French cuisine that
encompassed many of her poetical foods. But the menu resisted. Each time I pulled out Slices of Wagyu Beef
Tenderloin, Porcini Sablé, “Saint-Florentin” Potatoes, Red Kuri Squash, Bordelaise Sauce, my concentration would go flat. The
soufflé would exhale and everything seems to be wrong. This is not the food that would fit for this Thanksgiving
menu. Not to suggest that this style of cooking would not intrigue her, it would I am sure. But to celebrate her and
her poetry, this menu wanted, hungered for roast chicken with gravy and rice, to celebrate!

* * *

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

—From Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

This time last year I was shopping for books in a pop-up shop at our local
mall. After poking through the many of the usual choices that this small shop could
offer for it’s Christmas selections, I was elated to find Elizabeth Alexander’s new
memoir, The Light of the World, which details the unexpected loss of her husband
Ficre Ghebreyesus. This is a moving book, which the New York Journal of Books,
calls “... crushing, lovely, painful, and above all powerful.” After picking up this book
I knew our shopping trip was over, the plan for the day changed and I was going to
read this book. I was going through my own modes of grief and her book had me
hooked immediately. Her memories held a glorious poetics that held everything I
needed to focus on. It was in this moment that I started to conceive a menu-poem for
her. After many starts and stops, restarts and heavy editing I found my pathway to write this work.
In Chorus of Life: Twenty-One Voices Led by Dr. Victor Frankenstein I found my way to address a response. Here
are twenty voices, taking the form of a choir, still reeling from the loss of someone in their lives. Each poem is a
person recalling, remembering, and reliving something that can only call upon the fragility of life, the emptiness of
grief and the awful monster that it creates. The poems themselves appear as dreamlike images in which fiction and
reality meet, well-known tropes merge, meanings shift, past and present fuse. Time and memory always play a key
role. By experimenting with aleatoric processes, I wanted to amplify the response of the reader by creating writings
and settings that generate tranquil poetic images that leave traces and balances on the edge of recognition and
I hope you enjoy this meal, the menu and the poem. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Rockets, Geoffrey
Professor Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, and teacher. She
is the author of six books of poems, two collections of essays, a
play, and various edited collections. She was recently named a
Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, as well as the Wun
Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia
University. She previously served as the inaugural Frederick
Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University, where she taught
for 15 years and chaired the African American Studies
Department. In 2009, she composed and delivered “Praise Song
for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Her memoir, The Light of the World, was released in 2015 to great

Interesting Links

Elizabeth Alexander’s webpage:

23 poems by Elizabeth Alexander at Poem Hunter

Elizabeth Alexander’s Wikipedia page:

Poems by Elizabeth Alexander and biography at

Elizabeth Alexander: Profile and Poems at

"Natasha Trethewey Interviews Elizabeth Alexander", Southern Spaces

“Praise Song for the Day”, 2009 Presidential Inauguration, Elizabeth Alexander

Keynote Address-Prof. Elizabeth Alexander, IRAAS 20th Anniversary, November 1, 2013

Keynote- Elizabeth Alexander, Towards an Intellectual History of Black Women Conference, April 29, 2011
Chorus of Life
Twenty-One Voices Led by Dr. Victor Frankenstein

Conductor’s Invocation:

She died calmly, and her countenance expressed affection even in death. I need not describe the
feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by that most irreparable evil, the void that presents
itself to the soul, and the despair that is exhibited on the countenance. It is so long before the
mind can persuade itself that she whom we saw every day and whose very existence appeared a
part of our own can have departed forever--that the brightness of a beloved eye can have been
extinguished and the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to the ear can be hushed, never more
to be heard. These are the reflections of the first days; but when the lapse of time proves the
reality of the evil, then the actual bitterness of grief commences. Yet from whom has not that rude
hand rent away some dear connection? And why should I describe a sorrow which all have felt,
and must feel? The time at length arrives when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and
the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is not banished. My
mother was dead, but we had still duties which we ought to perform; we must continue our course
with the rest and learn to think ourselves fortunate whilst one remains whom the spoiler has not

—Dr. Victor Frankenstein; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Mezzo-soprano – 1

LOSING A LOVED ONE is always difficult, but saying goodbye
when you’re young brings its own groaning form of despair.
My father died in October 1974. I was five at the time.

For several months afterwards I didn’t play outside
I was no longer able to be carefree or an available friend.

I recall crying often. I would use my tears to get closer to him.
I believed that my crying, my being sad and unsettled would bring me
To the edge of life and living, and grieving wet eyes would blur

and as they would clear, find focus I hoped beyond hope to see
him standing there, ready with a napkin to dry my eyes, carry me
to our spots on the couch and we would do something together

I would fall to pieces at mealtimes. I sat next to him at the kitchen table
I missed sitting near him. My mother, my father and I would eat together.
I was old enough to be aware that she too was inconsolable.

I felt responsible for her, for our remaining family.
I was open to her and she was open to me. She could lean on me, as a crutch,

and she ... she wanted me to not be so sad, although it was inevitable.
She told me it was ok to be sad. It is all right to suffer. It is good to feel.
It is not a disadvantage to talk about it.

To suffer is ok.
And in our subsequent lives we have, if nothing else, excelled at being ok.
Soprano – 1

AT FIRST, WHEN SHE told me he was dead I felt nothing.
Although she told me that I cried after the actual day

I don’t remember it.
I don’t remember crying.
She told me that I did but I don't feel as if I ever have. Never.

Mom had a few partners over the years, mostly who turned out to be pretty
unreliable, and I never felt like anyone could ever replace my dad.

I cherish that the image I hold of my father in my mind.
It is one of nostalgia, an old fashioned young man, very 1970’s.
I am older now than was when he passed.
How can that be? It seems impossible.
He is young in my mind and he is giving me a yellow flower.
I have other passing feelings of him but he is wearing those shorts.
In others he is wearing a suit. Probably the same suit mom buried him in.

No one who ever occupied my life could replace my father.
All men have been fairly unreliable. My poor mother,
She always seemed lost without him. And these people
Wanted her to forget. She would never, ever forget him.

I don't remember everything. I can hear his motorcycle,
I can smell his aftershave. I get scared when men shout.

I don’t remember crying.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to that time and hug my smaller self.
I would hold me tight and tell me that, you know what, sometimes life
can go very wrong very quickly, but just be a child and grow, live.

It’s not up to you to clean up the mess adults create.
But how can you tell anyone anything, especially yourself.
You know that your younger self would tell you to fuck off,
If not outright, then hide it deep within your mind, fuck you
old woman, what do you know! Silly old cow!
Alto – 1

I LOST MY HUSBAND to terminal cancer three years ago.

We found out about it several years before he finally died.

He kept his diagnosis to himself for many months, telling no one.
I told him that his actions were as good as a lie. I was so upset.

I was mad at him, still am to be truthful.
But I was more angry at the cancer.
He told me anger is what was needed to fight.
He intended to fight the inevitable, but one cannot.

He became paralyzed down his right side.
He suffered a succession of seizures.

I was a young woman, in my middle twenties.
It was devastating, having to deal with something so serious
So beyond what I expected. Something that many don’t have
to understand until they are much, much older. Life is funny.

He died half way through my graduate program, so it affected
my grades, my mental health and just the normal ways of life.

Our daughter was a great help, but death is so abstract for those who’ve never
experienced a loved one’s passing. The farther away one is from dying
the harder it is to accept.

He was a very good man, a hard-working accountant and he loved me.
He was good to my family and we planned on beginning our lives.
He was funny and kind, and I cherish my time with him.

But I am still angry about his death. I feel cheated.
I think I should have been more brave, but how can you?
I raged with sorrow and yelled at his father. I should have been
More keen to his parents suffering. We were all sad. I lost a love,
They lost a son, we all lost the future together and I made it all worse.

We still are close. They are my family still.
Thankfully we cope the best as we are able. We move on
towards our own future without him, and our own deaths, alone.
Mezzo-soprano – 2

I WISH THAT I could talk about her death.
It is too difficult for me to do any more.

Things seem trite when spoken. In the air
Given sound, the ears cannot perceive anything past the
The buzzing noises of guilt making them feel used, common and dirty.

I was only twelve when I lost my mother.

I was the oldest child in a family of four.
It was my responsibility to look after our broken family.

Father had gone off, married again months after their divorce.
We were left alone, it seemed, as if our parents had deserted us.

Our new stepmother was not happy to have us live with her
And her new husband. Being older now, I can understand a bit more,
But then again, I cannot fathom her actions.

We were not to talk of our grief, our time before.... or anything.
Life was a new start, filled with the present, the ever-present now.

Today, many decades past these events, I still resent their decisions.
I trust very few people, talk to no one about my true feelings.

Talking is vital to moving past certain disasters.
Grief only grows inside the self like a weed or an ivy.
Growing up and over the building of the body, the soul,
Covered in green leaves slowly choking, slowly crumbling
The bricks and mortar that make a person a person;
a loving person, a caring person. I still feel broken inside.

But on the exterior I am beautiful. Mother would be quite proud,
Not just in me, but in all of us. Proud that death did not break us.
Soprano – 2

A MOTHER SHOULD NOT have to bury her young daughter.
When she passed away, died. Left. Whatever.
I missed her so very much. I love, loved her so much.

More, maybe, a bit more, which is horrible to say,
even more awful to think, than her brother. My son.
I love him with all my heart, but our relationship differed.
Is different than ours. A mother and daughter are bound.

Bound tighter than most things, knotted and special.
But if I can be truthful, I wished that it was he who died.
Not her. I could have dealt with that with her by my side.

And now I hate myself for even thinking such things.
And I do think it, sometimes, when he is not home.
When he is rude, when all seems to be blackness

I miss her and would pray to our absent god,
to come down and replace, take one for the other,
and give me back my little girl. Or just take me.

Please! Take me away, deep into the blackness
of nothingness, bring me to her side once again.
Death leaves us so lonely and no one knows how
I feel.
Alto – 2

I REMEMBER ONE MORNING she wore a floral dress.
It is a terrible longing, an unfulfilling angst.
I live in regret and grief, secretly of course.

As if a ball of paper is locked
Crumbled out in my chest,
which I dislodge occasionally
Smooth it out and escape into a prison.

I remember being told that she had died and gone to heaven.
I was devastated, knowing that death was forever.
My sister was not saddened. She recalled a priest tell her
That in heaven she would get better. From this she figured
That her chest would be repaired, her arms would grow again
And that she would regain the use of her legs.

Do not cry, she warned me. Because heaven would know
And if we showed them our sadness then they might not
Fix things, fix mom up again, and never let her out. Ever.

I never told her the truth. Death is always final.
She misunderstood the kindly priests words.
I never let on that heaven will never release anything
from its greediness, its grasp is forever.

I have a few charming memories of her, but not many.
I remember her singing along with the radio
while we rode in the backseat of the car
we were going to see our grandparents.

I also remember her scent. She loved perfumes
When she was alive I would play in her room,
smelling her clothes and handbags and kerchiefs.
They smelled faintly of her life.

Dad got rid of everything within a month after she died.
Baritone – 1


We are spinning in bewilderments.
I too am swirling, bereaved, saddened.

It took me many years
To come to terms with
That dark refulgence.

And today, when we were
Arm in arm in my thoughts
I found that I was no longer

Sad, I didn’t cry and I did
Not curl up, fetal position
On the floor in lamentation.

Saying our heartrending
Goodbyes changed me.

If my grief is passing, then this is equal
to the raucous fear, if not something
stronger than that badgering horror
I felt when I had to close your casket.
Alto – 3

ALL THOSE WHO I have loved,
Have fought with passionately

Have died without any tangible
Resolutions to our differences.

I love you and still miss you all.

In my mind I relive our fights,
Our finest, warmest embraces.

Your remarriage to that man,
Holding me when Alan died.

I sing with the thundering showers.
Reflect tears back towards the sun.

I freeze from the chilling frost
Unhappiness has left behind, alone.

Yes, I've sought counseling.
I am decidedly downbeat.

It is still against the norm
To speak openly about

One’s grief without fear
Of being coldshouldered.

It is because people are horrible.
We hate one another for feeling

For too long after we should move
Onwards and let forgetting guide

Us from nostalgia towards artifact.
Mezzo-soprano – 3

Decades actually,

I held on to the fear
That my sister and I
Had been such bad
Children, that god

Had taken our baby
Brother back to heaven.

Even though I now
Know that he died
From pneumonia
To this day I still act and react

From a dreadful sense of guilt.
Mom and Dad only recently

Discovered this
And laughed.
Bass – 1

WHEN I TALK ABOUT her death and my feeble reactions to it
I am speaking more about mental well being, the awareness
Of such things and how one is able to rejoin to it, that occurs

In all of us.

It is a passing moment that we need to feel
To move forward from our past, to forget
And move on to the next day – that is what


Fuck your privileges, your money and your new car.
Fuck your poverty and your grime, fuck your suburbia too.
The body has the ability to forget pain, torture and trauma.

But it is a torture to allow yourself to progress.
Forgiveness, merciful compassioned pardoning
Helps, somewhat, until that raw blackness rears

It’s symmetry void.

Assuage your sorrows
Death is a natural passage,
A river to ford, a bridge back.

Normalize death
By thinking of it
As a dear friend

Waiting to take us home,
Put us away on the shelf.
Fill the vacuum with shape.

Return to earth
Which we rose,

Alto – 4

I’LL BE HONEST WITH you I was really shocked.
There you were lying, as if you just fell asleep.


I looked at you
and I thought,

I thought we had made a mistake
But no, you were no longer there.

Here. And

In the two weeks since you died
I still call out to you, come home.

I spend sleepless nights lying on our bed
Alone wondering about death and dreams.

I am

Life is

without you

The towels
are still
under your

I smell
wince, I
No area
of our lives
are unaffected

I still remember when I saw you lying there
on the floor

and then in the morgue,

I remembered thinking
that you would be cold

and that I should take you
some warm clothes and a blanket.

When your remains were ready, they called up to schedule an appointment for collection.
I took a bus to the crematorium to retrieve your ashes, and planned to walk home because the whole bus
was very busy and I know how you were about crowds. When I got there, I was really surprised by how
dull, white and corporate the whole place was. Not that I was expecting a church or anything, but I had
hoped for more wood, or a plant, or a flower.

The desk attendant checked her computer for your record
Silently got up, making sure to not make eye contact and
She opened the white linoleum desk drawer
And pulled you out.

The ashes were placed
Inside a pine box, which was placed inside
A neatly folded and stapled white paper bag.

I placed the bundle into my backpack and walked home.

When I can manage to gaze
upon our many now disused
cigarette trays and empty home

I cry
for all
of our
Oddly enough, I kept your bagged lunch I prepared that day.

I froze it
it is still in the freezer,


for something
for someone

for something
that even I am not sure of

to happen
to forget

to undo the horror

the precariousness
of life, almost instantly

Bass – 1

I AM SICK OF hearing about you and your daddy.
Time to get over it? That’s now. Time to shut it
And just be quiet. We all have parents who die.

That is how it goes. One lives, one dies. No one
Gets out of here alive. Didn’t you read Hamlet?
His father dies and his stepfather and Uncle, as it

Goes, tells him plainly, deal with it, that’s life!
And Hamlet gets all glib and down in the mouth.
He kills his girlfriend’s father; then in the end

Everyone dies in some kind of sword fight slash
Poisoning. It’s great, bodies are strewn everywhere
Then a new king takes over, another country rules

And the only one left to tell the story is reluctant
To still be alive. Death touches everyone uniquely.
That is what it is like and your unspoken shame

Doesn’t do anyone any good at all. Overwhelming
Grief is overwhelming. That is what grief is, for
God’s sake. That is the lesson! That is the take home

Message. Life is Papier-mâché, a delicately disheveled
Artwork that is made from scraps glued together roughly.
Easy enough for a child to play with it and in a masters

Hands it can make a world-weary person stare in wonderment.
Papier-mâché is French for chewed paper. It’s not an accident
that we are born, it is not an accident that we die. We just do.
Mezzo-soprano – 4


That was 17 years ago, although the anguish
Has softened, subsided somewhat in the past
Few years
The exacting, unforgiving physicality of grief lingers.

I've remained in the same house that we all lived
Grew up in, as a family, for so long that it is hard
To just pick up and move. There are reminders

We had so many unfinished projects that we
Were working on and I am slowly, as best as
I can, work on them. Complete them, so that
I can move on from this life when it is my time.

Jane, our next-door neighbor, thinks I’ve lost the plot.
Tells me I’m living in the past, in a never-never land.
But I don't listen to divorced women, and besides she
Never knew Tom. He was my baby, my best friend.

Now in our unfinished garden I host gatherings
For the bereaved, for others who have lost a child.
I try to comfort them by listening to their stories.
I encourage them to talk about their lost loves

Over the many years I have found friends.

WHEN I'M OBVIOUSLY LOOKING through my Facebook
And looking at some of the posts, all you can see is
Pictures of celebrities and my friends looking beautiful
In selfies and everything, and then there's just me, like,
I can't get away from any of it. My mom says it’s normal

For children to be unable to cope with bereavement
And bottle it all up deep inside you so no one sees it.
But I feel like I am going to pop and then it’ll be all
Over the Internet and then obviously someone is going
To write some shitty comment about you.

It’s the worst thing ever when someone you love dies
And then seeing the world happily going on with their lives,
Not giving a shit and showing off a new shade of lip gloss.
Your whole life has fallen apart, yet the world still turns
And other people go on being normal.

Kristy told me to see this clip on YouTube from and old movie,
Four Weddings and a Funeral. Someone reads a poem by some dead
Guy called Stop All the Clocks. And I just feel like, no, I can't do that,
I just don't want to. I want life to just go back to the way it was because
Life is now over; nothing good can come from anything anymore. Ever.
Bass – 3

About you or mother
Or your expressions.

If we had parades for every
person that died nothing
would ever get done.

I did not know them.
!Shit happens in life.
I don’t understand
The purpose of these


Each and every day
Children are left motherless,
Fatherless from all the wars.
So what is special about your
Sad feelings, sunshine?

Wouldn't it stupid to write
Moronic poems
About everyone who lost
Someone they love. Fuck

This liberal crap and grow
A pair! Empathy will never
Win a war! How will your
Generation ever survive
A world war like my old
Man did? You won’t that’s
How and we’ll all be writing
Sappy shit poems about how
We lost our once great nation!
Tenor – 4

Woody Allen

Spike Milligan

Who said, I am not afraid
of death I just don't want
to be there when it happens.

It never ends well.
Death is horrifying.


The horror disentangles
Once the terrified respond.

It’s not that different from
Going into the woods after

Frankenstein’s monster
With pitchforks and fire.

It’s almost never dying
that is so fear-provoking.

It is that gray question ‘what happens next?’
That turns banality into the great adventure.
GEOFFREY GATZA is an award winning editor, publisher, poet and children's book author. He was named by
the Huffington Post as one of the Top 200 Advocates for American Poetry. He is the author many books of poetry,
including Apollo (BlazeVOX 2014), Secrets of my Prison House (BlazeVOX 2010) Kenmore: Poem Unlimited
(Casa Menendez 2009) and HouseCat Kung Fu: Strange Poems for Wild Children (Meritage Press 2008) Most
recently his work has appeared in FENCE and Tarpaulin Sky. His play on Marcel Duchamp will be staged in an art
installation in Philadelphia this year. His work appears in recent or forthcoming anthologies, including Litscapes:
Collected US Writings (Steerage Press, 2015), and Poets for Living Waters: An International Response to the BP Oil
Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (forthcoming from BlazeVOX). He lives in Kenmore, NY with his girlfriend and
two beloved cats.