How to Be Sage Without Hemlock


According to the map you’re still          home street view
caught you          with a grocery bag full of unwanted
          auctioned potatoes          dented cans
          I was wishing for a fresh snow           the kind
of beauty that conceals I was    
          earnest but stupid          according to or in spite of
our texture of belief we should eat
          the potatoes the skin          rich with
storage space          according to the guide the leaves
          contain an active poison          what we have
can't be measured          in international units our bodies
          assimilate          choose their satisfactions we'll
go with what is left          of the bread the wine
          the hunger          in other words with
what kills the least number with the most ease


How to Catch the Wolf


When the wolf proves he is actually there
          you talk to your friends          you feel
a definite sense of panic          the sketch
is an approximation in desperation          look what you’ve done
          already there are black marks          coal
across the page a brand new dust          in the nostrils in-
side your mouth          the sickness is separate
          from the self          but the hostess heedlessly
upright keeps mixing the two into your drink          when
you realize          that the symbols have been switched
on you you can live most agreeably in a world          full
of an increasing number           of disagreeable surprises
          what you see          through the window is
simulacra what’s tracked in          can be kept


How to Distribute Your Virtue


After the thin days          are passed the boring
minimums met will you find          the slow savor
          in the baked wished-for apple or
will you notice          the spider and death’s fat
          percentage in steady levitation so peaceful
from this distance          there are fewer
          options rooftop runs into river and what you gain
in perspective you lose
in looking          there are ways
          stocks investments heirloom
          seeds          to buy futures each choice
is half loss at least get          on with it the wolf’s
          fur is tangled in spider silk the delicate
ceremony is simmering
          and fuming in its own           borrowed heat


How Not to Boil an Egg


How easy it is          to stray
from austerity when the water reaches a certain
height and the city comes to a boil and the city’s sky
          isn’t a reflection of its inhabitants but is
in fact more water          more than you need fit for nothing
a poor economy probably          one of the most private things
          in all the world          is an egg until
it’s broken smile          you are being documented
you are becoming          a person unconscious
of the manifold disguises
          not to mention artful imitations          that can tempt
any sentient          by principle you’ll need at least one
flower a bird             bougainvillea brown pelican don’t
          leave it alone          don’t overdo it


Author's Note: These four poems are part of a series based on How to Cook a Wolf (MFK Fisher's 1942 philosophical and practical guide for cooking in times of rationing). I've stolen chapter titles for poem titles, and included in each poem is some appropriated language from its respective chapter. 


Cherry Pickman is the author of Theory of Tides, which was selected by Lucia Perillo for the Poetry Society of America’s New York Chapbook Fellowship. Her work has appeared in 32 Poems, Boston Review, and Indiana Review, among others. She lives in Miami, Florida.