Middlefield 7 Especially Pie




Like this

one of those villages

doesn’t much change

same kinds

of problems

what life looks like

how life

usually lived

families, real

messy, earning

some kind of living

or trying to.

Food each week

potatoes in ten pound bags

onions too all in the basement

if there is a basement

supermarket bread.

Weekenders New Yorkers

they carry bread in the car.

Some even take baking classes

They say there’s no

bread in upstate New York.

Coffee either.

Locals drink plenty of coffee.

Outside inside.

money college

absolute assumptions.

Amy Goodman

Rupert Murdoch

NPR and FOX.

Both sides

I know I’m right

What is education?

Firewood? Hannah Arendt?

Can we have both?

Self righteousness


of everyone

they each know

something big

something small

don’t tell one another

difference breeds anger

instead of curiosity

white sugar versus

agave as though

one is closer to truth.

Plumbers and architects.

Taste stands in for taste.

All just preference. Of course

There are facts. But facts

Aren’t Truth.Nearly everyone

thinks their preferences

significant. Me too.

I like old doors

better than Home Depot.

But I know

doors don’t matter much.

Even a little.

We all try.

Some of us grow old.

We go to supermarkets.

We buy milk and eggs.

Organic or not.

Some tell us each choice

a moral decision.


All our houses continue


Zucchini and tomatoes

every summer

If we are lucky.

How we

use them depends

on the books

we read. On the books

we don’t read.

On grandmothers. And

what we remember.

We try for pleasantries.

Hot. Cold. Rain is expected.

I heard a storm

Will come.

Not enough rain.

Maybe tomorrow

will be nicer. Years

of survivals. People

live here. People

who give this place

what life is. People

whose lives

whatever they are

are real stories










Especially Pie





When we heard that people from Brooklyn good


looking thin young people one was even a composer


and she wrote music that sounded, she said, like


bananas peeling what did she mean? when we heard


they bought the small funky church hall down the


road from us, really from Brooklyn, Williamsburg or


Sunset Park or Bedford Stuyvesant or some other


neighborhood with newcomers wearing wonderful


shoes, we all moaned and sighed. Hipsters moving


into the neighborhood, to our part of the country.


We have been, for the 12 years we are here, pretty


much exempt from hipsters. Artists yes, but no


hipsters. Not much in this countyside. No artisanal


anything much. We don’t run into hipsters much,


with well-dressed children and chic baby carriages,


wearing clever hats.


Ours is a poor county, where many people are


overweight and struggling to get by. Daily problems


mostly trump aesthetic pursuits. Though not always.




Artist hipsters who were turning an old


church hall into a loft, and using words like elegant.


The church has always been beautiful.


Hasn’t been a church for years.


It’s deserted. An old sign in front saying Free Will


Offering. When we first moved here


hairdressered ladies, mostly Methodists, their hair


that funny beauty parlor blue, would walk


into the church space with honeyed hams, with


macaroni salad, a few kinds of potato salad, with big


bags of cheetohs and chips and white paper plates


every Saturday afternoon and by 5, the parking lot was


full, hams consumed, and every member of our entire


community proclivities aside had eaten


a good slice of pie from blueberries or cherries or


peaches. And ice cream, Stewarts ice cream. As


much as you could pile onto your pie.

Supermarket coffee brewed in one of those


gigantic metal coffee makers. Coffee for


forty eight.




Hipsters have always seemed like another species of


being. Especially all knowing hipsters who home


schooled their kids and used the words grass fed and


local and organic organic organic in


relationship to food, who were certain and self


righteous about food wrongs and rights, who didn’t


allow white sugar anywhere in the vicinity of their


significant loved ones, especially children.


White sugar was kryptonite. They’d rather die than


eat a piece of pie.





We were sort of hipsters once. Twenty years ago when


we were in our twenties when we bought our house in


this small village of Middlefield we were the smug


outsiders, young and certain, well positioned to


remake reality, to


turn someone else’s old


house, the place we bought, into our version of


imagined paradise.. More hippyish than hipster,


we were more of the Anything Goes school than


believing that Everything Absolutely Everything Was


Under control. . Live and


Let Live was our philosophy. We’ve


always eaten plenty of pies.


Still we had our sanctimonious moments, our heritage


tomatos, our perfectly friend zucchini blossoms, even


stuffed with white anchovies, our scrape the walls to


what they should be instances of quasi perfection.


The hipsters seemed worse than we were. We watched


them get out of their car (the thin handsome man was


holding a copy of a book by Paul Auster. His wife held


paperback novel by Auster’s ex wife. Did


they only read Brooklyn authors? Was even their


reading de rigeur?


It’s not that I didn’t have my Good and Bad books. I


did. But the summer we moved


here, years ago, I read an essay in my dentist’s office.


I hate dentists, and have some degree of


Dentalphobia. Just sitting in the chair and having a


stranger check around has always


made me sweat. Still I love my dentist. George. He’s


just about the most good


natured human alive, and never even raises the


subject of flossing. He mostly discusses


white water rafting, and his wife Naomi’s ex husband


Jack. I forget about my teeth when I


visit George, which is a good thing. My teeth are



He had an odd magazine in his office, years ago.


Patients give him subscriptions for


Christmas gifts. I picked it up because of its title:


MOON. An essay inside was written


by a high powered man, a CEO Type A kind of guy who


decided to DROP OUT, just to


be. Whatever that even means. So he left his job and


moved upstate, to a small town 60


miles south west of Buffalo. He lived in an open and unfinished barn. His first


summer he went to an auction and bought boxes of


books for a dollar. He said the


books were unpredictable: books about canning and


caning, about astronomy and


Mormons. He read six novels he’d never heard of and


liked them all, liked the chance to


keep reading books he’d never heard of, by authors he


didn’t know. He called it pure


reading , and doing this formed the heart of his life.


Pure reading changed him, he said.


For months and months until he was


able, he said, to remove himself from all the big


influences, to feel like he was back in


touch with who he was and wanted to be.


I stole the magazine from Dentist George, although I


wrote him a note, too, telling him that


I had his MOON. I knew he didn’t care. I copied the


article in a XEROX place, and gave


it to everyone I knew. It seemed like one of those


pieces that are important forever. That piece started


my Forever file.


I walked down the road to invite the hipsters to dinner.


If they were bikers or hikers I’d have invited them too.


Inviting people to dinner is one of the few tasks I


know how to do. There’s so much I’m not good at,


not good at all, but I’ve always been able, even


as a little child, to go next door and ask the


neighbors to come join us. They almost always do.



The hipsters said yes. What’s funny is they came to


their door, beautiful old church door, earnest, sincere,


and I thought to myself what’s so bad about them?


They were wearing black clothes. Black is OK. No color


isn’t ok.


The church looked less like a ham cafeteria and more


like a space where the word installation would apply.


Stripped down to what it once was. White walls.



Alex and Alex were their names. Two Alexes. Male and


female. They wanted names that weren’t gender


specific. So what if they


chose them themselves. Their parents


probably didn’t have all that much imagination. I


didn’t want to ask what they did,


but they told me anyway: 3D and Imaging Installation.


I’m not sure what either of those is, as a job. After


they left, I googled Image Installation but couldn’t


find much. What was there was written in some new


obscure these words mean nothing


language, and I went back to feeling that there’s


nothing too good about being a hipster.


Even so I was committed absolutely to inviting them


for dinner. Nick asked me if I would


have invited them over if they’d moved in from


Gloversville and put plastic pots with plants on their


front lawn. I’d like to believe the answer is Yes. That


anyone who moves in should


come by and have a meal. But I’m not sure that’s


entirely true. Would I invite


someone liked Sarah Palin?


Probably not.


The outside was a different white than i


the old

Methodist church. I had to think for a while about how


I felt about whiter. Was there


anything intrinsically wrong with whiter? Half the


peopleI know had their teeth made whiter in the last


few years. Now their mouths have that fake Clark


Gabley glow in the dark look that everyone claims


Takes ten years off your life. Even Keith Richards


has fake white Would I be equally critical of a color I


cared nothing


about, a color in the negative column Wellfleet


periwinkle blue?


Was I somehow secretly competing with the youngish


Brooklyn hipsters?


Making rules that only I could win? Or was the over


earnestness, the humorless


self focus that I imagined was their lives even real?


They appeared at our door, and introduced


Themselves again. Could anyone forget Alex and Alex?



Female Alex had two different earrings:


non silver metals that didn’t dangle. They just hung


down in some purposeful


way, as though she could control their swinging.


Hello she said, more Tilda Swinton than Rosemary




On the other hand, our Methodist neighbor Beulah of


multiple light blue pillbox hats, maker of peanut


butter pies with old fashioned


CRISCO, the same stuff that probably coats your


arteries for a lifetime, is


just as odd. Beulah had three husbands. All dead she


says. But she claims she’s looking. Four’s the charm


says Beulah.


Welcome to Middlefield, I said to them both. And then


felt stuck. My follow up was equally feeble:


It’s beautiful here. Both Alexes stared thoughtfully,


seriously. Giving me the benefit


of the doubt, maybe. And maybe not. Looking in that


expectant way that makes you


feel you should say something important or at least


interesting. And you just can’t.


You can’t help but continue with platitudes. What a


summer I continued. I never


talk about the weather.


It’s been so hot. It’s a little cooler today.


I’m happy you’ve come to dinner I said, and wanted to


Be happy. Or at least a little happy.
Male Alex, handsome and silent, looked to his female


partner for help. He didn’t seem to know what to say


any more than I did.



Female Alex smiled at me. Beautiful. Generous even.


“I forgot to mention,” she said. “That we don’t eat


gluten or sugar. Or pie. Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m


sure we’ll all be fine.”


Esther Cohen
Let me tell you why I'm here, and why I hope you'll join me. I am here to poem, to play with words, to tell stories when I can, and to ask you for yours. Words are what I love, how I see, and what I say. Words are how I know my life, and how I find my friends. I'm here to ask you to join me. Right here. To send me your stories, and your poems. And to read mine when you can.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: