Sunday dinner, July 1985

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Chicka-chicka-chicka

the pressure cooker prattles

on the avocado stove

while I help Grandma

set the table for ten.

All is green:

speckled linoleum

vinyl tablecloth

tiny flowers rimming plates.

I stack Roman Meal

and sneak a lick of Country Crock before she sees.

Grandma rolls thick dumplings

for the simmering chicken

and cuts them with a butter knife

before dropping them into golden broth.

I love their rich pillow softness

with sharp pepper and salt.

I look out on the garden:

corn reaching tall

tomatoes vining wild

cantaloupe spreading wide.

Our sweet and savory sides.

Grandma turns sheet cake

into Mississippi Mud

with chocolate icing and pecans.

I steal just one nut

and fix the ragged hole with my pinkie.

I turn round and round on the bar chair

kicking my legs

waiting for the family

Sunday dinner to begin.

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My tribute to Grandpa–Butchering Day, age three

farm

My Grandpa Byron passed away one year ago this weekend. I want to share this memoir poem and my painting of the family farm in his memory.

Butchering Day—age three

Today is a big day at the farm.
All of Daddy’s family is gathered for butchering.
The ladies stand around the table side by side
so close I can’t see.
Mommy lets me poke my head in
and I watch them shake salt and brown sugar
over fat pink hams.
I hear thick white paper crinkle
when they wrap the hams tight.
Great-Grandma’s sink is full of feathers
like a pillow burst open.
I squirm when I see chicken feet
sticking out over the edge.
But the pot on the stove smells wonderful—
we’ll have chicken and dumplings for dinner.
I follow Daddy and my uncles to the smokehouse
where they hang the hams.
The sun lights up spider webs
in the holes of the wooden walls.
I breathe in the crackling fire’s smoky scent.
Outside I tiptoe up to the circle of men
and Great-Grandpa sees me hiding behind Daddy’s legs.
When he asks me to come closer
his blue eyes smile behind thick glasses.
“Watch, little Sarah,” he tells me
as he holds a chicken very still
on the old tree stump.
Suddenly I hear a thud
and the chicken chases me
without a head!
Great-Grandpa chuckles loudly
as I run inside like a scared little mouse.
Great-Grandma gives me a snack
when I tug at her apron—
graham crackers and sweet homemade juice
with grapes inside the jar.
She brings out the box of old toys
that Grandpa played with as a boy.
I play Farm with the metal tractor and wagon
and I play Kitchen with silver dishes and marbles
and little spice tins she saves just for me.
Best of all I like the old picture book
and I snuggle on the flowered couch
to find the story of the fox and crow.
Later I wake up just enough
to feel Great-Grandma tucking me in
with one of her homemade quilts.
I smile inside when she kisses my hair.