Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

How Food Should Be Served

Thomas Reynolds


My father arrives
To find her sitting
At an empty table.

In the rusted birdcage
The parakeet whips furiously
As if to make up for her lack of movement.

Through cataracts, she sees the flash of green
And hears the ringing of his voice
Pecking on her inner drum.

Her hands lie on the table
Like sparrows on a still branch
Just before the first storm wind whips it back.

The meals those hands have made!
That table spread with the same cloth
Spilling its wares onto the bureaus,

Onto the window ledges, the piano bench.
The phone crowded by potatoes and gravy.
Fried chicken and creamed corn on a dresser.

Always she whirred about the guests,
Ignoring those who begged her to sit.
Always that drive to provide for others.

After we were stuffed and headed for the porch,
She would pick from a sparse plate, complaining
That nothing tasted right, too dry, not enough salt.

Maybe she is remembering just such a meal
When my father knocks at the front door
To take her for an all-you-can-eat buffet.

She wanders among the green beans and roast,
The creamy bread pudding and spinach salad,
Among the bread and fifteen varieties of pies.

She fills her plate now and eats it all slowly,
Perhaps savoring the skill of fellow artists,
Or maybe thinking that this is not the way

Such a banquet should be served,
By such an unseen and efficient hand,
Who doesn’t hover to gauge the reaction,

Or linger for the end of an ancient joke
Before ducking in the kitchen for gravy,
Watching loved ones from the kitchen

So as to memorize their faces
And recall their voices when the silence is
Punctuated only by a bird’s restless chirps.

Now she eats fully and never complains.
The food is good here, she says, even though
With every bite, she grows only more frail.

***

Thomas Reynolds teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, Midwest Poetry Review, Potpourri, Ariga, Strange Horizons, Combat, American Western Magazine, The Pedestal Magazine, Ash Canyon Review, and Orphan Leaf Review. He contributed two poems to Muscadine Lines: A Southern Anthology.

© Thomas Reynolds

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012