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In hopes of attracting some new readers, I am participating in [community profile] cottoncandy_bingo, a fest devoted to light-hearted creativity. You can view my bingo card here. I'm filling the prompts from my poetic series and shared worlds, so they kind of blur the lines between original and fandom content. If you like my poetry, check out my Poetry Fishbowl project, because once a month you have a chance to give me prompts for the kind of poetry you want to read.

The following poem belongs to my Hart's Farm series, which is historic fantasy set in Sweden ~1850. This is my most popular feelgood series, and such a good match for [community profile] cottoncandy_bingo that it ultimately enticed me to take part in the fest. Hart's Farm is what I write to remind people that it's possible to have work you love and happy, healthy relationships of diverse types. It's where I turn when I get tired of the cruddy art imitating cruddy life that fills so much of the mainstream. This series has over a dozen poems already linked on the Serial Poetry page if you want to read more.

Fandom: Original (Hart's Farm)
Prompt: Dessert
Medium: Poetry
Summary: Ketiley spends all day in the kitchen, cooking and thinking about dessert as a metaphor for life.
Content Notes: None.


Sweet Words

The kitchen is Ketiley's favorite place,
warm from the fire in the hearth
and the banks of brick ovens,
golden with candlelight
and the thin Swedish sun.

Ketiley loves the crisp white apron
that wraps over her red-and-white dress,
the white cloth that covers her black hair,
the big quilted mittens that protect her hands.

Early in the morning,
blond Sindri brings pails of milk
balanced carefully in his big hands
that he still hasn't grown into all the way.
Astrid and Birgitta arrive,
giggling together over some girlish story,
each holding a basket of eggs.

Ketiley empties the buckets into wide pans
and adds a piece of rennet in each
to curdle the milk for ostkaka.
Carefully she picks up the eggs,
their ivory shells still warm from the hens,
and nestles them in their straw-lined box.

Una hums as she makes breakfast,
gold-and-silver hair braided atop her head.
She takes a share of eggs
and cracks them into sizzling skillets,
fries sausages in long chains.
Oatmeal bubbles in the big cauldron.
Fragrant steam fills the air.
Breakfast is always good.

From the rafters Ketiley brings down
a string of dried apples.
She packs them in a bowl,
layered with sugar and spices,
then wets them with a little juice
and leaves them to soak.

Ketiley starts the bread next:
flour and sugar to feed the yeast,
butter and milk to bind them together.
She brings out cardamom and cinnamon
to make a batch of kanelbulle,
rye flour and light treacle for mjukkaka.

After lunch, Ketiley and Una
knead the dough on a floured countertop,
sharing idle talk and ideas for tomorrow's menu
as they squeeze and squeeze the springy dough.
At last they put the bread in to bake.

Ketiley scoops the curds from the pans,
adding the sugar and eggs and almonds.
Then she fills the baking dishes
and slides the ostkaka into the oven.
Una seasons a roast and sets it to cook.

Then Finlo comes into the kitchen
with his son Engelbert balanced on one hip,
fresh from cleaning the art studio.
As a reward, Una takes Engelbert to the pantry
to pick a jar of jam to go with dessert.
He considers the rows as seriously
as Finlo pores over his tubes of paint,
passing over cloudberry and lingonberry
in favor of strawberry.

Ketiley makes pie crust, rolls it out,
and presses it into the pans.
She adds the apple filling and pats of butter,
then marks the top crusts with
the rune Fehu for abundance and happiness.
Finally she slides the pies into the oven.

Una peels potatoes to go with the roast.
The bread comes out of the oven,
and the potatoes go in the pot.
Now there are children underfoot,
and not a few adults, all wanting to know
when supper will be ready.
Una shoos them gently into the dining room.

At last they carry out the meal
on heavy platters trailing steam --
pork roast with tender potatoes,
butter and fresh-baked breads,
cabbage rolls that someone else brought,
ostkaka and apple pies.

The room is crowded with dozens of people
from all corners of the farm.
Engelbert is tucked between Astrid and Birgitta,
with Finlo watching over all of them to make sure
they eat more than jam and sweet bread.
Auduna is nursing her daughter Dagny
and trying to reach the table around the baby.
Sindri stops filling his own plate long enough
to ask what Auduna wants, then fills hers for her.

Ketiley smiles over the crowded table.
Family, she believes, is like making pastry:
good strong grain and salt of the earth,
the milk of human kindness,
and sweet words to make hope rise.

* * *

References

You can read more about Swedish desserts online. Ostkaka is Swedish cheesecake. Kanelbulle are cinnamon rolls. Mjukkaka is a soft flat bread.

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