How To Bake Starlight

by Sami Bennett

a poem in response to and in dedication of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Instructions to Painters and Poets”

I once read a poem
about how to paint sunlight
on the face of life

I asked myself if it were possible
to bake natural light from scratch
(as I am an uneducated painter
and taste is one of my favorite senses)

I asked teachers,
who gave me star-shaped cookie cutters
and told me to build a factory
and hire a hundred workers
at minimum wage
I asked my social friends,
who told me that baking
is done with a mix from the store
when it’s on sale
I asked my intimate friends
who told me I ought to ask

It seems to me
that all you have to do
is conceive of the whole world and all the animals
(including humanity)
as a kinds of dish
fit for gods
First you must find your breath
and remind yourself of its finite repetition
of the moment it started
and treasure it as a lifelong companion
Then notice the stars
even the ones that shy away
from city lights
and blur with your eyes
the glittering leaves of trees
in the summer sunlight
or the glitter of river ripples

Stir in these memories
as you take hold of your mixing spoon
like a time-changing telescope
Hold nothing back, not even the eggshells
or your tears
as you remember all the people who shared
your kitchen with you
the stars that glanced through your bright windows
of light

Don’t measure too closely
(you only have so many nights to spare)
Remember the heart of your masterpiece
the chicken broth, the flour, the zucchini,
the toiling lamplight
Treat it with respect
Don’t hide it in spices and shame
For it comes from a vast earth
just like you
A vast earth with a thousand eyes staring up at the stars
and the moon

Finally, trust yourself
for you will make light
(not matter how bad it tastes or looks)
Making mistakes always leads to destruction and creation
and sometimes it’s worth it
and shines as bright as any other star
Set it free from the oven and let it fly
(never try to cage a singing bird)
You will hear it shimmering
like baby light should
full of excitement to shine across the world
in baby blue light