February wears a suit of gray. Not the fitted darkness that is December or January. But rather a frayed and abrasive mist which enters the void and hovers. Low. Ghostly, at hip level or lower. Its skin is a clammy blanket that covers open nerves and spring creeks of thick blood. Bone is cold and marrow chilled. Gray is blue if pigment could only trespass, frigid dark. Gray is all. Dark again.


The branches underside skew darker than that of their drier sliver top-skins. Damp at midday still, brushing cool surface clay and channeling moisture to hang suspended. Setting sun yields black now, underneath, inhaling earth colorless and dead. Truth reveals this to be the business end of February. Gray forms the shadow to deceive the distracted. Life. Movement. Work.

Late afternoon ushers in gray, a hue of dry tea and old cinnamon. Still harsh now, gray-brown rather than gray-gray. Smoked like whiskey peat and more so resembling chicken-thigh dark. The dark of movement hidden in perpetual work, below cover. Of resident red muscle rather than flight muscle. The difficult and sustaining part.

Drip wanders down the spine of winter. And stops short, lower.

The croupionner, as Julia Frey clarifies for the confused among French-speaking Americans, is the woman who swings her own business end in stride. I wish I had a swing like that in my backyard, all the colored boys say. A croupion roots her tail feathers; otherwise the hanging posterior fatty bit of fowl. The Pope’s Nose. Precisely what His Papacy is doing sniffing around down there is anyone’s guess. Presumably Confirming Catholic Guilt, agrees the parishioner. Either way, it’s pygostyle to ornithologists. Or as the uvula is to the tonsil of an ass cheek.


Tho they stay her feet at the dance,

In her is the far romance.

Under the rain of winter falling,

Vine and rose will await recalling.

Tho the dark be cold and blind,

Yet her sea-fog’s touch is kind,

And her mightier caress

Is joy and the pain thereof;

And great is thy tenderness,

O cool, grey city of love!



Just north of the croupion rests an oyster pair, quite near the thigh, but on the lower dorsal. Gray and dark and flanking the ilium bone, or where the small of the back marks two dimples on the lucky lass. Celluloid-captured by Amélie, unabridged in Larousse and referenced by Bittman, they’re le sot-l’y-laisse or that which The Fool Leaves There. The best part, give or take. The foolish far outnumber the bright. Fools lust for the fashionable and the beloved. They want only what they are told to desire and eschew what lies closest to the bone.

Lower still.

The underside stirs the soup of men. Dark thighs of deep reddish black of protein and oxygen; the femoral region hidden by skin. The sun goes down. This is the stuff of comfort, slow and constant. Of work and working girls. At the table and in the yard. Of taut flesh and sinew strung bow-legged and pigeon-toed tentative still, but with purpose. Poking. Scratching. Toned inside and out from shadows formed on hip-wheels and ball joints.

Gray in those dark shadows closest to bone.

Pinkish ’til flame is applied. Smoked, braised and tailored.

Given in to moisture, I rebuke the foolish breast, man.

I love you but I choose dark meat.

Yes, right there. Again.


_ _ _ _ _
Chinese Tea-Smoked Chicken
(Adapted slightly from Jennifer Yu’s Use Real Butter)

_ _ _ _ _
8 plump, whole chicken legs (thighs and legs)
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
4 tbsp salt
3 tbsp Lapsang Souchong tea
1 tsp flour
1 tbsp brown sugar

_ _ _ _ _
Marinate your chicken
(Day 1)
1. In a large bowl, rub legs and thighs and legs with salt and
pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in fridge overnight.

_ _ _ _ _
Prepare your chicken (Day 2)
1. The next day, remove from fridge and wash off the salt and peppercorns.
2. Place chicken pieces in heavy pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil.
3. When water boils, turn off the heat and cover for 10 or so
minutes, or just until juices run clear.
4. Remove chicken and cool on a plate.

_ _ _ _ _
4 clean, wide, stubby metal cans
1 large cooling (or grilling) rack
1 large baking sheet or rack (for transporting to grill)
2 large pieces of aluminum foil

_ _ _ _ _
1. Grab four stubby, wide metal cans (about the size of tuna cans). Use a can opener to remove the tops and bottoms of the cans. Remove all labels.
2. Position the baking sheet or largest rack on the counter. This will serve as the transporting base of your smoker.
3. Lay out a large double sheet of tin foil. The foil should be large enough to eventually wrap up the entire affair like a package.
4. Evenly sprinkle the tea, flour, and brown sugar on the tin foil (in an area roughly the size of your cooling rack.
5. Position the cans to support and elevate the cooling rack.
6. Place the rack on top of the cans. Your tea, flour, and brown sugar should be spread out evenly below the rack.
7. Arrange your cooled chicken, skin-side up, on the cooling rack (sitting above the metal cans).
8. Bring the outer areas of the foil together and seal tightly, like
a tent, leaving adequate space above the chicken. Remember, smoke needs room to do its finest magic.
 _ _ _ _ _
NOTE: Don’t crowd the chicken in the smoker or the smoker on the grill. Let it breathe a little.

 _ _ _ _ _
1. Turn your gas grill on high, or carefully arrange smoker over
a hot charcoal grill.
2. Grill for about 15-20 minutes and check for darkness. It should be a deep reddish-brown.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low for another 15 minutes (or move to indirect heat source on charcoal grill and check after 10 minutes).
4. Remove from grill and open foil to allow smoke to escape.
5. Season lightly with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.