By Gabrielle Brant Freeman
I’ve told you all my feel-good stories. Please don’t ask
for the ones that will make me cry. I don’t want to cry
on camera, and I especially don’t want to cry
over this giant gummy anatomical heart
that I haven’t even started to melt down yet.
Five minutes have already gone by with me
running around the pantry looking for cornstarch,
for egg yolks, for anything to thicken me up.
I feel I’m on the verge of breaking.
I have no idea what to do with chicken hearts and
artichoke hearts and strawberries shaped like hearts and
conversation hearts. And…I’m starting to take
the mystery ingredients personally.
I mean, I know. I knew what I was getting into.
You get candy hearts? Smash them to bits with a meat tenderizer,
stick them in a skillet with butter and alcohol and hope
they stick together. Drink directly from the bottle
until you feel better about not leaving
any single basket ingredient whole.
And anyways, if I cry into my bread pudding
made from leftover pizza crust, crushed hearts
of palm, and a cinnamon and sugar prayer, it won’t matter
that I baked in this kitchen. Took A. Big. Risk.
The judges won’t eat it, won’t even push it around
in the presentation-perfect vessels I chose, expose
the still raw centers with their sharp steel tines.
That’s what happens sometimes
when you put everything on the plate. I know.
I didn’t come here for validation. I didn’t come here
to prove to myself, to prove to anyone else, that I made
the right decision. But, damn. Ted?
A win here would mean everything.
Gabrielle Brant Freeman's poetry has been published in many journals, including Grist, One, Scoundrel Time, Shenandoah, and storySouth. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017, and she was a Best of the Net 2014 finalist. Gabrielle won the 2015 Randall Jarrell Competition. Press 53 published her book, When She Was Bad, in 2016. Read her poems and more at http://gabriellebrantfreeman.squarespace.com/.