Poetry

Fast Food

Weight of the world sounds pleasant

when all the griefs to bear

crush the soul and body both.

Can’t be strong, can’t be weak,

can’t be weak enough to admit

that I’m stuck

nor strong enough to admit

that I’m weak.

I guess you are what eats you

when you go about

setting your own table.

Occasional Prose · Poetry

Ladies’ Fingers (a short story)

Author’s note: I had no idea where this was going but I wanted to overcome some procrastination. I couldn’t decide if this should be a poem or a short story so I went with both. Scattered throughout are the random words listed on Jenny Grace’s post. Be sure to check out her excellent blog!

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Ladies’ Fingers

She’d fry the okra the second it was ready.

Couldn’t wait. More likely we wouldn’t wait.

The days were long enough.

The blues would play softly on the radio

but we’d all shuffle ’round in silence,

waitin’ on the oil.

A flick of water told her it was ready

to drop into the grease.

Guitar slides on the radio. Static. More guitar.

Any moment we could do the same,

slide in frenzy, meltdown from the humidity

or the tension in that house.

Boss had half a mind and a half a heart

to disown me

when they heard the news–

they knew I knew their secret.

I was just surprised that they had a half

of either one to spare.

The okra made a loud sizzlin’ noise

from the kitchen, no doubt splatterin’ grease

all over the dirty countertops.

She forgot to pat ’em dry.

It was like a burstin’ dam. Slow. Small. At first, anyway.

She took solace in an old music box

her mama gave her, some song

about the northern lights of someplace

called Aberdeen.

She wanted to see them, the aurora borealis

they’re called. The place didn’t matter.

Yes, sweet solace waited elsewhere.

No solace here.

The gruff voice on the radio

might have felt similar.

Boss took solace in belittlin’ her.

Said he didn’t give a damn

that she missed her home.

I took uneasy solace in steady work, room and board.

We all took some solace

as the sizzlin’ sound slowed in the kitchen

and she pulled that fresh fried okra

from the stove.

Why any of us would want that heavy meal

when we were all drenched in sweat,

tired from a long day, and set to sleep soon

for yet another long day

was beyond me.

Boy, did it always taste good though,

never stalky, never bitter. Perfection.

She could cook.

She called us to the table,

warm beers all ’round. She had a dirty glass

of water, chipped near the edge.

She spoke grace while he groaned,

waiting impatiently for the amen

to most assuredly eat that okra.

We ate in silence spare for the radio,

Memphis Minnie serenading us.

It didn’t take much to eat our fill.

It didn’t take much to enjoy the taste

that would have to tide us over

until the next batch was ready to pick.

A longer silence followed. The radio cut out

for the evening.

It wasn’t quite dark but it was time to head out.

I bid them a good night.

She smiled half-heartedly. He just grunted about the work

for tomorrow and the mess

in the kitchen.

I stepped out into the muggy evenin’ air,

cigarette rolled and ready

to smoke,

unawares that my last night

under the magnolia flag

was that very night.

Acoustic guitar echoed in my mind.

“Now look here mama what am I to do?
Now look here mama what am I, I to do?
I ain’t got nobody to tell my troubles to
. . .”

That was the night the fire broke out,

no survivors, only one body.

Trail of burnt grease

’round the ruins.

The others stuck around,

to investigate, to figure out

how the fire done burnt the

house there on the delta.

I just remembered a half-hearted smile

and the taste of perfectly cooked okra.

I’d have to head south.

I had no mind to know what happened

but a lesser desire still

to see the lights up north.

Poetry

Let Simmer for 10 Minutes

Gastronomy died at the advent

of Hamburger Helper,

when Betty Crocker

pulled the Arthurian spoon from the pot

and showed us peasants

of rural Camelot

that we were free.

Exchange the tasteless currency

for bland and questionable fees,

throw a pound of cow

in a pot with who knows what

with finesse like a casserole.

Cooking’s easy now, and cheap,

but I won’t even buy it when

the knockoffs are better

at Hy-Vee.

I throw dirt on the grave of gastronomy

and open the seasoning pack

for the pot.

It’s been a day, don’tcha see?