When Robert Lee Brewer handed out his challenge assignment this morning on Poetic Asides, I imagine his grin and his thoughts. “They’re gonna be all over this one. I can see it now.”
He was right, you know. We did stomp all over this prompt-of-the-day. Food is right up my alley, as my backside can attest. He wanted us to write about regional cuisine—either the food itself or some aspect pertaining to it. This was my response.
It sits, having conquered gravity
To reign over table and diners.
Six layers of diabetes, waiting
For consumption by the sliver.
Who’d’ve expected one pie
To feed twenty sugar addicts?
We wait, breathe held, for slicing
To begin so that we can let
Our portion melt, slither, find
Our centers to give that rush
To bodies needing Pilates more
Than three kinds of caramel in
Six stacked shells of doughy goodness.
© Claudette J. Young 2012
Meanwhile, over at Poetic Bloomings. I found In-Form Poet proceedings for the day. Poet Jan Turner invented a new form not long ago, which puts limits on some areas of form, while leaving others untouched. It goes like this.
Write a Tri-Fall poem:
- Three stanzas of six lines each
- Rhyme scheme of a,b,c,a,b,c
- Syllable count for each stanza: 6-3-8-6-3-8
- No specific meter
- Little to no punctuation
- Any subject will do
Since I was already subject oriented from the Poetic Asides prompt, I stayed on the subject of regional food, parked myself at Granny’s table, and wrote about what had been placed before me. My goal was to write a story in this poem. I’m hoping to capture a memory. You’ll have to tell me if I succeeded in telling the story.
Table long, groaning now
of platters, dishes, and elbows.
Ham, chops, eggs galore vow
to stay late
just to erase dieter’s woes.
Clasping hands for prayer
‘til men get theirs and kids do too.
Smells so good this home fare
“Where’s the cow?”
Utters late-comer with “moo.”
“Stayed outside,” replies Gran
“Sit and eat.”
all bowls cleaned, platters empty too.
Belt loose on a lone man
in laps of soft-talking moms.
© Claudette J. Young 2012
Before I finish out this month’s blog challenge, I’d like to take a few moments to talk about something to which most of us can relate.
When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, my parents and grandparents taught us lessons. Some of those lessons came at the end of a parent’s arm, in the form of a solid hand landing on a padded behind. That was before the days when self-expression was encouraged and corporal punishment was banned as being barbaric and cruel.
I’m just making a point about the differences in society between then and now.
One of the big lessons taught in our household, and in many other homes as well, was that there were places in the world where people went hungry on a daily basis, and that we should be grateful for what was placed before us on the table.
I think everyone between the ages of 45 and 100 has echoing voices in your heads right now that testify to that piece of instruction.
My family was considered slightly poor by the standards of children raised in town, whose folks worked in a shop, for IBM, or the university. My dad was blue-collar, and we lived in the country. Those were big considerations back then, too. I didn’t know any of that until high school.
We didn’t go without food, clothing, shelter, fun, a good car, or the rest of the material things that “mattered.” Most of those living in the country had as many or, in come cases, more of their needs taken care of, than those in town, without our mothers having to work outside the home.
We knew we had it good. It was understood. We learned by example when Mom took the time and effort to feed those who came to the door and asked for food and something to drink. Hobos were common in those days.
Our country culture demanded that we provide sustenance to those in need. It never occurred to her to turn someone away without at least a meal and clean, cold water to drink. Usually she gave them iced tea and whatever was leftover from dinner the evening before.
All of which brings us back to the question of that hunger lesson. I know that there are thousands of children all over the U.S. who go to bed knowing real hunger. I was never one of them, thank God, but I’ve known my share of them over the years.
I got to thinking about that this afternoon, and the admonition drilled into children to this day at the dinner table. Children cannot relate to something they’ve never experienced or seen first-hand. Unless the child who lives in the well-kept house, with all the toys scattered unthinkingly throughout, actually sees the consequences of hunger, it’s impossible to get the lesson across.
I’m tempted to wager that the majority middle-class and upper-lower-class citizens have never known hunger in this country. They haven’t gone a few days without something to eat and decent water to drink. If they had experienced real hunger on a regular basis, I doubt it would not exist in the country for long.
The realization of this difference between my generation and those coming up blazed across my mind. My generation was taught how food got to the table. Kids worked in the garden to help with the family harvest. They felt the soil with their own hands, pulled tomatoes off the vine and ate them while the red beauties still held sun’s kiss. They also knew the price of having a vegetable crop fail to thrive due to drought or too much rain.
We lived closer to the earth in those days and were thankful for that. Buying groceries—staples—in a store was a family outing experience. We saw and appreciated how much money crossed palms across the counter to purchase flour, coffee, tea, baking soda, or laundry detergent.
When neighbors knew that a family was in need, they pitched in to help that family over the rough patch. A neighbor might stop by the house with a dozen fresh eggs, a couple of gallons of milk, and several ears of fresh corn. A discussion would ensue; the neighbor would ask if someone in the household would take these food items in trade for a couple of hours helping to herd sheep or to can jams and jellies for the winter pantry.
Negotiations were done in a way that left everyone’s pride intact and still got a job done and a family fed. Many in today’s city-oriented world don’t have that option or will ever know the joy of helping each other over the trouble spots of life. People fall through the cracks, and some go hungry within shouting distance of a grocery store that tosses vegetables into a dumpster at the end of the day’s business.
I wonder what it would take for us to see all of the hungry in our country. How much of a personal burden would it be to feed all of those people? Would it do any good if those with well-fed children required them to see those who aren’t? Would the lesson stick in the mind a bit better from the experience?
I’d like to think that families could return to those values and personal economies that taught us the cost of another’s hunger and the price we pay for ignoring it. Whether we can rediscover the country culture that required us to care for each other as we would ourselves remains to be seen.
Perhaps we can all take a look at the problems we can help relieve in our pursuit of happiness and come to a family understanding that teaches all its members.
The cultural differences between far North frontier country and Southern deep roots would throw anybody into shock.
The precipitator of this condition of shock may lie in the fact that many in the North tend to categorize the South. Some dismiss those of the South as the eccentric cousins who aren’t discussed in polite society all that often. After all, they say, Southerners are the ones who brought about that wicked Civil War and all, don’t you know.
Believe it or not, there are those that still think that way. Aside from that, according to others, Southerners are known to be just a hair short on the mental acuity scale. Otherwise they would be out in the world far more and be recognized for their entrepreneurial acumen and social hipness.
Sarcastic? Me? Never!
I can tell you two things for certain sure. I grew up with half my family from the South where I spent as much time as possible, and I lived in the western part of the South for more years than I care to count.
‘Course, living there cured me of one thing–smoking. Couldn’t do it anymore. Didn’t need to be doing it in the first place. Found a way to get rid of the habit for good, and I’ve never been more glad about anything in my life.
Because of my age I remember how the older South used to function. I remember the time before the Civil Rights Movement. I remember watching an older black gentleman step off the sidewalk so that my mother, grandmother, and I could walk past him as he tipped his hat to us. I also remember crying because I thought I’d done something wrong that made him not want to be on the same street as me.
My mother, of course, explained the situation to me right there on the sidewalk. I got indignant (I was very good then at doing indignant) and demanded my grandmother explain why her people would ever do such a thing. All of which upset her no end, as you can imagine. I was very young at the time, challenging an elder about social etiquette. And I did apologize later.
Things settled down a bit during the rest of the visit, but I’ve always been able to close my eyes and see that episode behind the lids anytime I wanted. It was a great social leveler for me.
What else do I remember? I remember catching Grandaddy and my little brother one afternoon, down feeding the hogs (my grandparents were farmers–what were known as sharecroppers, actually.) Indignation swarmed up my backside that afternoon, too.
They were sitting in the back of the big cargo wagon that was heaped with little bitty watermelons about the size of half a soccer ball. Grandaddy would cut a melon in half, hand one half to my brother while keeping one for himself. Each of them would scoop out the heart of the melon, eat it, and then throw the rest to the hogs across the fence before moving on to the next melon.
Now, I knew how those little melons tasted. They were like watermelon flavored honey in a bowl, and I wanted my fair share. Well, wouldn’t you know that the good-old-boys party was just wrapping up when I arrived. I only got the one little melon. –Not that I could have stuffed more than one down my gullet anyway.–
Ever Ride A Cow?
There was a neighbor boy named Hunter who lived down the lane. He used a big Black Angus bull for a horse and rode that animal everywhere. My brother wanted to be just like Hunter, running through the woods barefoot, shooting his .22 and generally running wild.
To that end little bro decided one day, while we were helping my aunt milk the cows, that he wanted to ride one of them. Now, my aunt was raised on a farm and knew how a farm and its animals operated. And she had a really good suspicion what would happen if bro rode milk cow.
She couldn’t talk him out of it, though, so when all the milk was secured and the cows were ready to go back out into the pasture, she asked him which cow he fancied. Being the adventurer that he was, he chose the big Guernsey. Well, my aunt got the cow out into the barn’s center, made sure of the halter rope, and told him to hop right up there on the cow.
I have to admit, he did pretty good. He managed to last almost the entire 8 seconds before hitting the ground with a whoosh. He was a bit stunned. After all, Hunter made it look so easy. But then, Hunter wasn’t trying to ride a milk cow that had never held a rider before. Hurt? Nah, bro wasn’t hurt, except for his pride.
I confess. I laughed my tail off. My good aunt didn’t, bless her heart. That was the last I ever saw of that cow, though.
I remember an ice storm at Thanksgiving one year, which forced us to drive home in it on less-than-new tires and seeing my dad white-knuckled at the wheel, knowing he was silently praying that we made it home one state away before we got killed. I do believe Mom was praying just as hard as Dad.
Personally, I was enjoying the fairy castle quality the ice gave all the trees and undergrowth. I’d never seen the effects of an ice storms before. All these years later, I’ve seen too many years of destruction from Nature’s Ice Queen.
There were so many times back then when fun was had by simply playing Red Rover in my grandparents front yard. Or standing in the stripping shed during our autumn visits, stripping tobacco to put in the drying barns. That time was filled with country music blaring from the radio, listening to my grandmother and aunts relate family history and community news in soft twang that amuses so many not of the South, and just spending time together.
The one thing that the south will never be short of is family solidarity. A family member might bring the wrath of the family down on his/her head by shaming the family name, but before that any member will fight to the death for any other member of that family.
The South is hot, sticky, contrary sometimes, and solidly itself. It doesn’t claim to be anything else and never will. If you want proof of that, go down to South America and into Brazil’s interior and visit the city that our South built from the ashes of the Civil War. They still Fly the Confederate flag as their own. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,965976,00.html
Betcha didn’t know that, huh?
‘Til next time, have a great day, y’all. Catch the last of those lightning bugs and enjoy the homemade ice cream. I’ll have the peach, please.