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"Steps for Frying: A Guide for Birds", "Contemplation on Going-to-the-Sun Road" by Jen Karetnick

Steps for Frying: A Guide for Birds



I.


Quail is a good starter bird for when you want to learn how to deep-fry a turkey, excoriate in sizzling peanut oil a complete torso. Small enough to juggle, its backbone fitting into a palm, its body won’t displace too much volume and send accelerant racing over the sides of the pot toward propane. Most turkey fryer explosions are oversights of the cook’s design, despite what social media videos reveal.


2.


To enjoy victory, it’s important to perform a gastronomic qiblah that allows for zero error. First, know how ice cold plus boiling oil ends in jets squirting everywhere, bouquets of tiny burns blossoming on unprotected skin. Defrost, always. Dry the bird. Bring it to room temp. Don’t stuff it, but rub it with spice mixtures or inject it under the skin with a marinade. A needle and plunger are often provided for such purposes. This is harder to do than you might think. Phlebotomy experience comes in handy here.


3.


Rain drizzles shorten a session; a downpour calls for an end. Should the weather make no faux pas, plunge the bird in its basket by degrees, but don’t jostle it on the way down. Then allow the heat to exert control. The boiling, oily haze makes you want to move. Quell the urge. Such a fowl needs only a handful of your day before it surfaces, tacked to a thermometer. The read should be 165 degrees. A perfectly jaundiced exterior hides the juicy nuances within.


4.


Master this fist-size achievement and you can progress to Cornish hens, duck, free-range chicken, geese. Just don’t insist on starting with the biggest—a jaded barbecuer’s worst impetus. Embrace the quiet, modest game. Acquiesce.








Contemplation on Going-to-the-Sun Road



Held by the mountain, the trail is a too-long leash that switchbacks, ribboning our feet. We wade through rabbitbrush, broom snakewood, and horsetail, try to avoid snagging on the necklaces of tree roots that drip pendants of petrified sap.


We laugh to keep the bears away, so we don’t have to spray. My son wants to love his first job, I say when it’s my turn to tell jokes. Hit pay day.


The larch trees stand like naked snowmen, as if children stuck branches into their bodies.


Huckleberries ripen knee-high. Pinkie-print bruises.


Our first jobs came with groping hands.


The air thins like hair.


Middle-aged


women


teem,


team.


*


(Bare)


bear!


I cry


from the back


of the caravan.


Hail is a whiplash of violence.


Domesticity and deadlines unspool behind me.

The black bear hunches, limping, thin on this abrupt, glassy sheen, its limbs a teenager’s.


We are plump with can-you-top-this stories: whales in Alaska, elephant safaris in Africa, walruses in Antarctica.


The next day, our fly-fishing guide tells us rangers had to remove the signs that said, Come see the glaciers before they’re all gone. “They’re still the same size,” he says, rowing toward our lines so we can winch up the wild-born, thrashing cutthroat.








The winner of the 2022 Cider Press Review Book Award for Inheritance with a High Error Rate (forthcoming), chosen by judge Lauren Camp, Jen Karetnick is the author of 10 additional poetry collections, including the chapbook What Forges Us Steel: The Judge Judy Poems (Alternating Current Press, forthcoming). Her work has won the Tiferet Writing Contest for Poetry, Split Rock Review Chapbook Competition, Hart Crane Memorial Prize, and Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, among other honors, and received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Wildacres Retreat, Artists in Residence in the Everglades, the Deering Estate, Maryland Transit Administration, and elsewhere. The co-founder and managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, she has recent or forthcoming work in The American Poetry Review, Cold Mountain Review, Missouri Review Poem of the Day, Notre Dame Review, South Dakota Review, and Tar River Poetry. See jkaretnick.com.



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