Happy Poetry Thursday!
I did not follow this week's prompt, but decided to revise an old piece, one that has not appeared on this blog.
The following is the first poem I thought, "Gosh, this is a real poem." Since I wrote it about 12 years ago, I don't feel as strongly about the message as I did originally. But I think it still holds up. When I was in grad school, I thought that this would be my signature piece. So for me, revisiting the poem is a walk down memory lane. And, I think it paints a palpable picture.
If you enjoy eating chitlins (or chitterlings), then you may want to stop reading now.
It came in 10-pound container from the meat section
next to the hog jaws and hog maws and cow’s tongue and scrapple.
Mom used to clean them mid-day when I wasn't home
and when I was, I tried to get out. The acrid mustardy smell
of intestines boiling coated the house. I wondered
if our neighbors thought we were re-enacting a tribal ritual
with animal sacrifices, maybe we were.
Dad just liked the fleshy taste and mom was indifferent.
It was something they did out of habit rather than tradition.
I watched her from the front yard as she’d take
a hunk like rope and scrape the fat, let the froth
simmer to the top of the pot like wet paper.
She’d boil a pan of water with vanilla flavoring
next to the chitlins to fool us but who was she kidding?
Nothing covered the stench of that pork mush.
I imagined that this smell was evil, like boiled human entrails,
and I’d get sick from my own thoughts;
thoughts conjured from a time before me,
of never having enough but using every part what remained.
Pasty as wet paper, I thought this is what it came down to:
choice—my father eating the viscera,
and my mother poised to offer me a bowl,
the off-ramp of a swine’s innards,
knowing that this was all a part of me.