"On my Third Anniversary in New Jersey" by Noelle Kocot + Chard and Mozzarella Panini

Do you ever have one of those moments when you wake up, let your thoughts go, and wonder how you arrived where you're currently sitting? I do. Not often, but every six months or so I might be driving down Santa Monica Boulevard or wine tasting or just reading a book on my lunch break, and there it is. How did I get here? The answer is usually very practical. You quit your job, packed a U-Haul, got another job, etc. Yes, that's how I got here, physically. but there's another side to our journey, and this poem is working on uncovering it.

That's where we find our speaker. In the kitchen, craving "a sandwich in the moonlight," and hungry for far more than a meal.

The poem is directed at someone, but we don't know who. It could be New Jersey, an abstract conversation with the state she now calls home. It could be a spouse, though the poem doesn't divulge the speaker's marital status. It could also just be one of those midnight conversations you have with yourself.

I'm not one of those late-night snack people. I fall asleep around 10 or 10:30 pm. Sometimes I wake up in the very early morning with my stomach lightly growling, but I choose sleep instead. So I turned to you, and you offered up your favorite snacks and cravings.

It's appropriate, then, that I somehow managed to eat this sandwich at exactly the time I said I never would. It was July 27th, the first day of the Olympics. My husband had a long workday and wasn't able to leave the office until closer to 8:30, so I waited. When he got home, I heated the grill pan, melted the cheese, and we sat crunching away on our couch, watching the opening ceremony.

On My Third Anniversary in New Jersey

by Noelle Kocot

It's the fern beyond the wind, the classic
Eruptions.  Night is a funnel that is overcome.
Violence of signs beyond the pale. Stasis
Has its own way, the hard work, the violence.
Convalesce, convalesce in the green green
World, in which you could hardly walk,
But that was before, before life set its rhythms
In its way. Passion is confused by silence.
Gone are the slow horses, the wetness and the
Going forth, that's made me whole again.
A small room, a sandwich in the moonlight,
Intermittently, I see a hummingbird at
The flower box, and the great church bells
Ring.  This is the beginning. I lived in a small
Room long ago. The soft earth beckoned me
Here, and I stayed. There is a dearness about
All of this, and though I want to be hungry
Again, I find that I am filled. My legs fly into
Summer, into the morning air and the leaves.  
So this is what peace is, no need to spiral
In the twilight, no need to ask, season after
Season, where are you now? And, should I go?

In this poem, something is gone. Something went missing. Passion? Desire? Contentment? Whatever it is just floats around in the speaker's peripheral vision. The poem also leaves you a bit breathless when you read it. A reflection of the mind, perhaps? It's one long exercise in coming to terms with the present and not having regrets, so that one day, in the twilight, we will not need to ask "season after season, where are you now? And, should I go?"


I recently ate at Pizzeria Mozza for the fourth time and was impressed by one of the appetizers I had, so I've turned it into a panini perfect for midnight, or any time.

1 large garlic clove
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 bunch red chard
1/2 bunch green onions
Ciabatta bread, enough for 2 sandwiches
1/2 mozzarella ball, sliced

Heat some extra-virgin olive oil in a large pan over low heat and add the garlic. While the garlic warms up, pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil; reduce until thickened, just a few minutes.

To the garlic, add the chard. Don't bother cutting the stems, just rip the leaves off and tear into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until wilted but still sturdy, about 5 minutes.

Heat more oil on a grill pan over medium-high and add the green onions. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until sufficiently charred; remove and chop into 1-inch pieces when cooled. Leave the heat on but reduce it to medium, add some more oil, and prepare a panini. On the bottom half of bread, add a layer of mozzarella cheese, then top with green onions and chard; drizzle with the balsamic sauce. Top with another slice of bread and place it on the hot grill pan. Press it down with a cast-iron pan, and cook until grill marks appear and the cheese is slightly melted, then flip it over and cook for a few minutes more. Slice before serving.