Frances Ruhlen McConnel
Coat Hanger Risotto


I dreamed we were making a meal
of cut-up coat-hangers.

There was no question they would go down hard,
but they would go down.

I was cooking them with cheese and rice
or maybe it was grits

and, while the pot simmered, we were reading
a poem about exotic dishes.

Cheryl read the first stanza and Michael
the second, but I couldn't wait

for my turn and was murmuring all the
lines under my breath.

Michael thought the recipe for corn
and kitty litter was brilliant.

(Or maybe he meant the image.) We seemed
to be on a ship or perhaps

a large boat and it was tossing enough
to make the dishes rattle.


Maybe the dream's boat came from the call I'd gotten
the day before from my first husband, the weekend skipper.
He'd updated me on the construction of the visitors' bunker at his
and his second wife's place in the San Juan Islands which
you had to reach by boat. Not that this was an invitation.
He wanted our second daughter's phone number as he kept
getting the message that the one he had was out of service
and he seemed surprised she had a new area code. A couple
of years new. Then I told him my brother had just visited;
but because when I used his old nickname, “Dusty.” my ex
said “Who?” and I had to explain, I didn't tell him
of Dusty's recent diagnosis of possible liver cancer,
though I did mention the interferon treatments
he was starting for his Hep C which were said
to make you sick as a landlubber.


In the dream, I was steadying the pot
which was bubbling madly,

chunks of coat-hangers bobbing
up and down and the yellow

of the Cheddar as bright as poppies,
and I thought I couldn't wait

for it to cool, or the poem to be over;
I was that eager to dig in.