One of my duties as Tweetspeak’s first official Poet Laura is to eat chocolate and write chocolate poems. I have Part A of this responsibility down pat, with Aldi’s Moser Roth Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt playing a key supportive role. (Fair trade, reasonably priced, delicious. If you live in one of the fourteen states without an Aldi, I suggest you get to those real estate listings.)
Chocolate is one of my daily required food groups, so you’d think I’d have written a poem or two in honor of the elixir. I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head, so I searched my Google Docs, which I’ve used pretty much exclusively since 2014, and found just one line referencing chocolate in a poem about ice cream. So, it’s about time I give chocolate its due in a dedicated poem.
A number of chocolate poems center on love, sensuality, and joy. And rightly so. Take a look at Barbara Crooker’s “Ode to Chocolate,” and tell me she hasn’t nailed the magic (apologies to milk “chocolate” fans).
Ode to Chocolate
I hate milk chocolate, don’t want clouds
of cream diluting the dark night sky,
don’t want pralines or raisins, rubble
in this smooth plateau. I like my coffee
black, my beer from Germany, wine
from Burgundy, the darker, the better.
I like my heroes complicated and brooding,
James Dean in oiled leather, leaning
on a motorcycle. You know the color.
Oh, chocolate! From the spice bazaars
of Africa, hulled in mills, beaten,
pressed in bars. The cold slab of a cave’s
interior, when all the stars
have gone to sleep.
Chocolate strolls up to the microphone
and plays jazz at midnight, the low slow
notes of a bass clarinet. Chocolate saunters
down the runway, slouches in quaint
boutiques; its style is je ne sais quoi.
Chocolate stays up late and gambles,
likes roulette. Always bets
on the noir.
—Barbara Crooker, author of More
But because I can be utterly disagreeable and, I don’t know—charmingly complex?—my first attempt at chocolate poetry ended up a little less than celebratory.
What’s not so sweet:
The Junior Mint that fell in my purse
during the movie smashing itself
into the grooves of my car key.
My four-year-old daughter
munching a morsel she found on the floor,
screaming in betrayal
when she realized it had tumbled
from her brother’s diaper.
The chocolate I melted and poured
into pumpkin-shaped molds for my ninth-grade teachers
late into the night before Halloween.
My classmate scoffing, “You didn’t make those
for your teachers, did you?” as I shoved
the cellophane bags in the bottom of my backpack
to spread and smear like my shame.
The hot chocolate scalding my jean-covered thigh.
The M&M’s I bought for an eighteenth birthday alone.
The dusty white veil coating the expired Valentine candy.
The brownie cheesecake baking dish
shattering before we could have one piece.
The chocolate drizzle on my cappuccino—
ordered an hour ago with a gleam of foam in my eye—
settling to the bottom. The grainy sludge
hitting me heavy on the lips like a kiss goodbye.
I’ll admit this poem feels like an early-stage draft—if not still a brainstorm of sorts. Any one of these images could become its own poem, a truffle or cream in a whole box of Sad Chocolate Poems. It is precisely because of chocolate’s power over the taste buds, mind, and emotions that it’s easy to recall so many chocolate-related incidents, even the sad ones, from my past. Ask me to list memories involving butternut squash, or even Skittles, and I’ll be lucky to come up with just one. That’s because these foods lack the intoxicating qualities of chocolate. Or, perhaps, because I don’t eat them nearly as much.
Whatever the nature and mood of your chocolate-laden memories, I challenge you to start writing them down. See where they take you in your rich emotions of caramel and wistfulness, epiphany and ganache. You never know what you’re going to get.
Photo by Michael Mueller, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish