Sunday dinner, July 1985


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.


My tribute to Grandpa–Butchering Day, age three


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.