The first poem I’m sharing as Deep Water’s new editor speaks beautifully of two often entwined subjects: grief and food. Its title, “Umami,” is a reference to the rich, savory flavor that is one of the five basic tastes. As the poem’s speaker cooks, remembers and eats, we find that grief can yield moments of surprisingly savory salvation.

Richard Foerster is the author of eight poetry collections, most recently “Boy on a Doorstep: New and Selected Poems,” published by Tiger Bark Press in 2019. For the last 33 years, he has lived on the coast of southern Maine.

Poets, please note that submissions to Deep Water are open through the end of October. For more information, go to mainewriters.org/programs/deep-water.

 

Umami

By Richard Foerster

 

… a deep sense of deliciousness, the profound

taste of life in a state of decay.

– Jonah Lehrer

 

What I’d sensed as failure – seared bits clinging

to the cast-iron pan, near scorched, at the verge

 

of burning into a state irretrievably beyond

bitter, sour, salt, or sweet – I salvaged

 

with a splash of stock I had simmering

on the back burner, and vigorous stirrings

 

with a wooden, flat-edged spoon. The bits

dissolved into a glaze born of uncertainty,

 

and I recalled the evening I first sat down at this table,

set for one, and vowed to cook a meal each day

 

from scratch, to make of solitary tedium

a spiritual practice, as if I could chop and dice,

 

sauté and simmer the facts of his death, raise them

piping hot to my lips, and take nourishment there.

 

How do we learn to savor loss, concoct

a varied diet from its basic raw ingredients?

 

Tonight again I roll my tongue around umami,

hold it in my mouth – the irony of it – and swallow.

 

Megan Grumbling is a poet who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Umami” copyright © 2019 by Richard Foerster. Reprinted from “Boy on a Doorstep: New and Selected Poems” (Tiger Bark Press, 2019) by permission of Richard Foerster. It appears here by permission of the author.