granddaddy was different. lived alone
in north carolina. gradmama lived
up north. the mason-dixon drew a line
between them when mouths to feed
made a difference and love was the work.
above and below, divided union
men in the kitchen played checkers,
drank whiskey, waited for sweet potato pie.
granddaddy tied a towel around his waist, a cincture
to hold it all inside, a leaf for his loins.
he stirred steaming pots and laughed
like it wasn’t a crime.
between them moved a feeling.
grandmama hid behind glasses
thick enough to see souls. peeked through
windows of men and always knew when
and where she was needed. it was not down
south. or in the kitchen. or at the table playing
checkers. she went north needing work and
needing. north to look up from down. north
to know life after labor and seven babies. north
when love was always the work.
he ladled his love into old bowls: pigfeet,
collard greens, peas and cornbread, washed
with whisky and swallowed with pride in a room
where the only secrets between them lived at
the bottom of the bowl when there was nothing
left to do except raise their eyes from the table,
look into one another, and feel what it meant to be full.
in the kitchen where there was no woman
they were full of themselves. their odors, mixed
in the open air with the smell of food, was nourishment
for some part of themselves for which their were
outside the room, they were men with full bellies
who needed no one and stayed down south
where wild things are both dangerous
and beautiful too.