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American Terroir

Sit down at the table with your countrymen & friends
And ask your lips, tongues, minds & bellies some questions,
Questions that remind us that our bodies & spirits
Are either nurtured by place
Or swallowed up by tasteless placelessness.

Ask aloud: Just what exactly is it
That we want to have cross our lips,
To roll off our tongues & down our throats
To be transformed & conjured into something
Altogether new by thousands of gut microbes
To surge into our bloodstreams
To be carried along with insulin for one last wild ride
& to be lodged within the very cells of our bodies?

Just what do we want to be made of?
What do we claim as our tastes?
& what do we want to taste like
When we, in our own turn, are eaten
by wolf, vulture, raven, condor, coyote or bear?

I, for one, & perhaps you as well,
Wish to taste like the very country in which I reside:

Like great plains bison wallowing amidst the prairie turnips,
Like salmon running up a cold and clear mountain stream,
Like gators crawling into a swamp stewing with sassafras leaves,
Like wild rice hand-harvested from the azure waters of a northern lake,
Like maple syrup gleaned from woods where Robert Frost once walked,
Like cactus fruit falling off a tall saguaro into a handmade basket below.

These plants &animals are asking us
to pledge allegiance to what is local, what is loved,
to what is seasonal, what is unique to each American place .

If old Walt Whitman were sitting at our table,
Supping with us today, he’d be celebrating
That wild old slumgullion stew that all of us together make,
Singing a song that goes like this:
“Taste America’s uniqueness, taste this earth,
Taste our terroir, savor its worth,
And by tasting, you will see!

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