Cooking of Joy

An epigraph to Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer, 1975: “That which thy fathers have bequeathed to thee, earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it.” –from Goethe’s Faust 

On my mother’s Joy of Cooking the jacket is white 

but tattered

sloppy on a spine that lost its conviction


blood red on the cover

colossal but lowercase


a pantsuit proclamation

another white woman

not owning up to anything

much less her own.

In my mother’s Joy of Cooking

the inside cover is blue

baby blue

her sister’s hands have written

“the key to Mr. Right’s

heart is through his stomach.

Bon Apetite—”

another hunger appropriated

she signs her name strong

natural: “Deb-”

while below, afterthoughts read “+ Bill”

and I wonder if it’s because Deb probably bought this herself

savored this sisterhood for herself



—or because she didn’t dare threaten his masculinity.


Within my mother’s Joy of Cooking

nurse’s handwriting

scrawls her mother’s snickerdoodle recipe

half pencil, half pen

hesitant inheritance

tucked into the folds:



—her carrot cake

on the back of a yellowing insurance statement

from a woman I’ll never know

—my youngest sister’s Thanksgiving cranberry sauce

her second grade penmanship eager to please

colonialist ships in pale pink crayon

—my middle sister’s pecan pie

from when baking for her was self-expression

not self-deprecation

—and my gluten-free crust

for an allergy my mother has tried so desperately to accommodate

an expression of love I wish extended to my pronouns


My mother’s Joy of Cooking

is filled with good intentions: newspaper clippings

no one will remember

stains passed down

recipes we may never try

but could

pages lost in an encyclopedia

of stories reduced to a simmer—

When she says “I never follow the recipe anyway”

I say

I don’t think it’s as simple

as you believe it to be.

Like Mike

Coming out feels like the only time I’ve ever been to the Basketball Hall of Fame

it was morning

on the way to a funeral

in northwest Connecticut

I was in fifth grade

I don’t remember who died.


I remember my black tights stretched over

my toes, my calves, the dimples where my kneecaps were supposed to be

Tights: this feeling of suffocating delicately, of submission

of a fabricated waist and crotch constantly sinking

to hips and thighs

—of feeling smaller in my own shoes.

Remember the Middle Ages? The Renaissance?

Or the early 2000s when Kobe Bryant made tights popular in the NBA

and the league effectively banned them

requiring players to provide a doctor’s request

detailing a medical need


I remember my father saying the Hall of Fame outgrew its birthplace

that this was its third iteration, brand new

silver sphere in the skyline

They say it’s the best yet, he said

She said but isn’t everything inside basically the same

And I remember

I remember

watching interstate tail lights and the orange of traffic cones 


and bleed


Smoothing a dress over my thighs

like a blanket

I told myself it was a blanket



Assured I could change when we got there

in the parking lot my mother said it was too much of time and hassle

Look at all these people

She said

and was I even grateful for being here and

how uncomfortable was I, really?


I don’t remember who died

but I remember shooting regulation basketballs

at hoops of differing heights and styles

some fluid, some static

I remember passing through a hallway of names I did not recognize (but my father did)

I remember asking my mother for a jersey I knew we couldn’t afford

and waiting in line

to stand against the silhouettes of men

and realize

just how small

my wingspan

really was.

Luke Lennon (they/he) is a queer, trans part-time poet based in Boston, MA. You can find them at poetry open mics or beaches, mostly. IG: elbabin