Between Old Men



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

no words.


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.

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