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Elizabeth Cohen's ambitious newest book of poems, The Patron Saint of Cauliflower, explores both safety and danger; twinning domesticity with apocalyptic fantasies.
In this book of poems that pairs the love and safety of a mother's kitchen with the dark and impending disasters that inhabit our world today, Cohen writes of the "pure muscle" of the cabbage; the "stand-up act" of the artichoke and her love of chocolate ("it's a cowgirl thing"). Yet the whimsy of food has a darker side here, in which poems parse the despair of places where there is a lack of it and ways we live on a planet that may not, in fact, be able to sustain us and our ways in the long run. "The children of Aleppo are eating grass," she writes, in her poem "if rabbits had hands, " which ends the image of their toys, including one doll "missing a leg."
These powerful poems, which are written in the form of prayers and spells, refrigerator notes and descriptions of imaginary saints, go the distance between love and fear, plenty and deficiency, stopping along the way for a bite of cake or freshly prepared guacamole. They examine the magic and even holiness of food, while preparing the reader for the most desperate sides of our human experience.