"Refrigerator" is the second song of Lori Laitman's Men With Small Heads cycle, which sets the poetry of Thomas Lux. This particular poem is one of the new poems in Lux's New and Selected Poems of Thomas Lux: 1975-1995.
"My daughter Diana introduced me to the work of Thomas Lux, one of her favorite poets. 'Refrigerator, 1957' is a musical fantasy. Reminiscent of French songs, the opening veers into a 3/4 section as the subject, 'maraschino cherries,' is introduced. Humorous tidbits lead to a lyric and touching close. "
The composer's note and the audio clip for "Refrigerator, 1957" (provided in the media player to the right) are made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest. The performers are Jean Bernard Cerin, baritone, and Andrew Rosenblum, piano, and this performance took place at Pepperdine University at SongFest 2010. To listen, please click on the track name itself.
by Thomas Lux
More like a vault -- you pull the handle out
and on the shelves: not a lot,
and what there is (a boiled potato
in a bag, a chicken carcass
under foil) looking dispirited,
drained, mugged. This is not
a place to go in hope or hunger.
But, just to the right of the middle
of the middle door shelf, on fire, a lit-from-within red,
heart red, sexual red, wet neon red,
shining red in their liquid, exotic,
in such company: a jar
of maraschino cherries. Three-quarters
full, fiery globes, like strippers
at a church social. Maraschino cherries, maraschino,
the only foreign word I knew. Not once
did I see these cherries employed: not
in a drink, nor on top
of a glob of ice cream,
or just pop one in your mouth. Not once.
The same jar there through an entire
childhood of dull dinners -- bald meat,
pocked peas and, see above,
boiled potatoes. Maybe
they came over from the old country,
family heirlooms, or were status symbols
bought with a piece of the first paycheck
from a sweatshop,
which beat the pig farm in Bohemia,
handed down from my grandparents
to my parents
to be someday mine,
then my child's?
They were beautiful
and, if I never ate one,
it was because I knew it might be missed
or because I knew it would not be replaced
and because you do not eat
that which rips your heart with joy.