Recipes, Stopwatches and Scales

I’m wrapping up my first semester of teaching basic composition at Iowa State. I enjoy teaching, but like most teachers I hate grading. Watching these people begin life on their own and navigate the higher ed system, I keep thinking about how I hope they don’t remember their grade (unless they want to). I hope they remember that they have inherent worth. Writing can make them strong, that’s all. That’s all college is (if you look at the good side of it): an experience that is supposed to make someone stronger, more capable of taking on challenges and asserting themselves in the world of work and ideas. It’s a tool. No tool – not even writing, which I hope they now see as relevant – matters as much as they do as people. Their worth is not measurable, even though this system measures them all the time.

 Recipes, Stopwatches, and Scales 
By Ginnia Kovach 
Measure out the sugar and the chocolate chips 
Measure minutes for the race you run 
Measure time for boiling eggs, measure the hem of your pants 
Measure how many earths fit in the sun 
Measure miles between your house and Paris or Milan 
Measure gas to fuel your car or bike 
Measure emissions, measure waste, measure money spent 
Measure the costs of what you’re told to like 
Measure all you need to measure to live from day to day 
But no matter what you weigh or watch accrue 
Remember that no partner, politician, or professor 
Can quantify the value that’s in you 


“I am worthless” I heard you say
Your eyes were empty and
your body was heavy
Oh, I wanted to banish that evil spirit who
whispered that in your ear or maybe
hug you until I wore the lie away

I forgot that moment
as I lay in bed this morning,
thinking about my LinkedIn profile and saying to myself:“You are worthless.”

But then I remembered
that it wasn’t true

Some doctor or lawyer was probably
at that very moment thinking the same thing
and maybe some man was tightening a noose, his mouth so full
of those worthless words he was going to choke

We need Someone to hold us to wear the lies away

This breath in our lungs,
this light in our eyes,
this pain in our backs must bring us
to a point where we can see
Our worth does not lie in anything we do, but in everything we are:
fragile vessels that can be filled with so many things
but are meant for love.

the stem, the potato, and us

On the Internet I read
that you can take a rose,
slather the stem in honey,
stick it in a potato,
plant the potato in dirt
and wait

The Internet told me I
could expect a new rose
in time

Now, my husband and I work
(it just so happens) at a grocery store —
in floral and produce, respectively
we discard rose stems and
fading potatoes every day, so
I told him with a wink that even
though we couldn’t have kids,
we could make a baby this way

and in our eyes I felt the objection
what if this silly thing from the Internet
doesn’t work, and our potato rose baby
doesn’t live, and what does that mean?

But I planted it anyway,
and soon the bad potato smelled
so bad I had to set the pot
on the fire escape, but

I watered it, and watched,
and the stem remained a stem until
one day it was gone,

the pot tipped over, the potato eaten through by
some squirrel with low standards

I guess I am not going to read into that

Between Sleep and Conversation

I took a train from France to Italy 
once through the sunflower fields - 
acres of gold stretching
on and on; 
but they were just 
flashes then
between sleep and conversation
and the rhythm 
of the train

I married you in August 
holding aster, nervous hands
I loved those golden circles
set in white
And we looked at us that night 
in the soft candlelight, 
looks we held in full
to hold in time

Now the days are moving 
at time’s determined speed 
and your kisses are so gentle and so firm
sleep and conversation
each misunderstanding
in the rhythm 
of the endings 
of the days


I think when people started telling me
                                          “It’s real”
I did believe them
I thought, I can see that, and
why wouldn’t I believe you


Over time, though,
as I kept hearing this story
                                         of being pushed back
                                         or not seen
                                         or spoken for
                                        without consent,

I started to feel something other
than pity, compassion and guilt

I started to feel the hair
on my arms stand up
as I realized how
                                         I move with
                                        a wave of history
                                        that carves away at
                                        a rock made of spirits
                                        and bodies

                                        crash against it
and again

                                           This is an analogy
                                            Will it ever break at the breaking point?

I have so much
I know so little