Osso Buco, by Billy Collins


(Photo from Politicook.com. I’m afraid I didn’t have any of my own photos to use and this one shows the bones very well.)

Pat of Singleforareason sent me a link to a poem today. It relates to my Rome-ing in the Rain post, where Monsieur warms up with a hearty Ossobucco (which can be spelled in a number of ways, including Collins’ Osso Buco).
If you enjoy eating, then this poem will bring some beauty and reflection to the everyday things that go on during mealtime.

Osso Buco

I love the sound of the bone against the plate
and the fortress-like look of it
lying before me in a moat of risotto,
the meat soft as the leg of an angel
who has lived a purely airborne existence.
And best of all, the secret marrow,
the invaded privacy of the animal
prized out with a knife and swallowed down
with cold, exhilarating wine.

I am swaying now in the hour after dinner,
a citizen tilted back on his chair,
a creature with a full stomach–
something you don’t hear much about in poetry,
that sanctuary of hunger and deprivation.
you know: the driving rain, the boots by the door,
small birds searching for berries in winter.

But tonight, the lion of contentment
has placed a warm heavy paw on my chest,
and I can only close my eyes and listen
to the drums of woe throbbing in the distance
and the sound of my wife’s laughter
on the telephone in the next room,
the woman who cooked the savory osso buco,
who pointed to show the butcher the ones she wanted.
She who talks to her faraway friend
while I linger here at the table
with a hot, companionable cup of tea,
feeling like one of the friendly natives,
a reliable guide, maybe even the chief’s favorite son.

Somewhere, a man is crawling up a rocky hillside
on bleeding knees and palms, an Irish penitent
carrying the stone of the world in his stomach;
and elsewhere people of all nations stare
at one another across a long, empty table.

But here, the candles give off their warm glow,
the same light that Shakespeare and Izaac Walton wrote by,
the light that lit and shadowed the faces of history.
Only now it plays on the blue plates,
the crumpled napkins, the crossed knife and fork.

In a while, one of us will go up to bed
and the other will follow.
Then we will slip below the surface of the night
into miles of water, drifting down and down
to the dark, soundless bottom
until the weight of dreams pulls us lower still,
below the shale and layered rock,
beneath the strata of hunger and pleasure,
into the broken bones of the earth itself,
into the marrow of the only place we know.

Billy Collins,
The Art of Drowning

To read more about Ossobucco, check out Chocolate and Zucchini’s write up and recipe and the Reluctant Gourmet for another.

**Thank you again to Single for a Reason, for introducing us to this poem, which was found on Break out of the Box.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. hahaha! great post!

    I love osso buco, partially because I am absolutely in love with Anthony Bourdain and he said that would be his last meal on death row.

    I also love italian food. I lived in Parma for 6 months and did nothing but eat proscuitto and amazing cheese. Oh god, the memories.


  2. biscuit says:

    Hi Billy,

    I just wanted to let you know that PolitiCook really doesn’t deserve the credit for that photo. The person who posted that recipe, erm, “borrowed” pretty freely from the web, so chances are, there’s some struggling photog out there who *really* deserves the credit!

    That said, thanks for linking to us anyway. Shows your integrity. And gives us a chance to check your blog out!


  3. biscuit says:

    Oops. Billy wrote the poem.

    Far be it for me to actually read a post before I respond. 😀


  4. epicurienne says:

    Grassroots Gourmet – I share your fan-ship of Anthony Bourdain. His show, No Reservations, is one of my favourites on TV but I didn’t know that Osso Buco (or however you want to spell it) would be his favoured final meal on the planet if he had to choose. That’s fascinating!
    I envy your former life in Parma. I visited there for an afternoon last year and had the most incredible gelato but it was a holiday so the delis were all closed when I tried to buy some real parmigiano and Parma ham. Never mind, it gives me a good excuse to go back.

    Biscuit at Politicook – thanks for your comments. They made me chuckle. I love your site and look forward to getting to know it better!


  5. w1kkp says:

    I just watched a No Reservations that took place in Spain. I don’t know whether it was a new one or what, but Anthony Bourdain came as close to verklempt as I’ve ever seen him eating some of the food being prepared in the kitchen. I think it had eels in it. He said it was the best thing he’s ever tasted. Then, sitting down the with owners, a very well known father daughter team ( you probably know them, Epic. I’d never heard of them) he was almost misty talking about them, their food. I’d never quite seen him like this. Do you know the program I mean. Anyway, let me see…Eel or Osso Bocco for my favorite. Osso Bocco it is and I’ve never even tasted it!


    1. epicurienne says:

      Well I have to say that the best ever Anthony Bourdain No Reservations that I ever saw was when he was in Beiruit and the city came under attack. He is REAL. I like him. A lot. Not surprised to hear that you liked him in his Spanish Episode.
      ANTHONY – if you ever get to see these posts and comments, please write back. A lot of my friends admire you as much as I do.


  6. w1kkp says:

    I saw that Beirut one, Epic. It was quite something! There really are so many, though, where unexpected things happen and he makes the most of it.


  7. Great poem and thank you for referencing my site and recipe for Ossobucco. You may also be interested in my post on Pork Ossobucco at http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/blog/meat-recipes/pork-osso-buco-recipe/. It is not as reach as veal ossobucco, but has tremendous flavor and is much more affordable. I am enjoying Epicurienne. Thanks again, RG


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