The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Rebecca Ellis

Marilyn Monroe's Cooking School


In the kitchen she’s all business,
easing butter into a stainless steel pan
and setting it to melt on low. She trims the claws
from the blue-green tips of the artichoke, removing
that hint of danger from their curved suede leaves.

She’s wearing a neat white apron over a red dress,
just a little tight – keep it on low, notice
but don’t get distracted.
She’s running the whole show here–
the budget, the planning, and how it’s all produced.

She understands your hunger, understands
better than you your appreciation of butter.
The chops sit on a plate, waiting for the pan, breathing in
a dusting of eight different spices.
There will be carrots too – her favorite vegetable –

and for you she’ll slice them into orange pennies,
steamed instead of how she eats alone,
munching them bright, raw, cool.
Yes, steamed, she thinks,
with a touch of fresh tarragon.

She’s studied the menu for days, writing out
her personal changes to the recipes.
She brings in everything she knows, after years of study,
not just cooking but acting school
and night classes in literature – mention Whitman

or Aristophanes, Camus or Proust, and she’ll tell you
what they wrote, and what they dreamed of eating.
Sit down. You think you’re just hungry
but the butter for dipping the artichoke
will include a spice that’s unidentifiable –

lemon thyme, but she never
writes it down. It stays
in your mouth for hours after,
filling a need
you didn’t think you had.




REBECCA ELLIS lives in southern Illinois.  Her poems can be found in Bellevue Literary Review, Naugatuck River Review, Sugar Mule, Prairie Schooner, Adanna, and Crab Creek Review



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