I was leaning against the kitchen sink enthralled by the scent of mustard greens
And ham hocks when Ma walked in with the news.
Your grandma died. I wasn’t as close to her as my cousins.
I saw Daddy cry for the first time at the table; tears trickled down his face,
Into his beard.
What did you say to him, boy? Ma yelled.
Nothin’, he just started cryin’.
I remember her root beer-brown leather sofa
That shined in the glare from the floor model TV.
Her house smelled old as she fed my sister and me
Spicy stew beef and squares of cornbread
Marinating in the juice from the meat.
Daddy wanted us to call her Grandmama, instead of Essie V.,
But we didn’t know her like that. She “dipped snuff.”
She made my sister cry with her blood shot eyes,
Her gums eaten up with rot from the tobacco she chewed.
Ma and Daddy drove off to The Savoy Club in his “Blue Magic” bug,
Leaving us with her in her turquoise house with the tin roof.
She reminds me of pecan trees and daddy as a boy
Ringing the necks of defenseless turtles.
My sister and I used to feed the chickens.
Watch them clamber for popcorn seed.
Stop feedin’ them chickens, she’d yell as she stood out on the stoop
Throwing out a pot of uneaten ox tails, day old neck bones.
The back yard smelled like bleach.
My daddy’s Mama, my Grandma who I hardly knew,
Had Alzheimer’s Disease. She passed away in a nursing home
In Wakulla on Thanksgiving Day in 1989.
She couldn’t remember the names of her grandchildren.
A piece of my Daddy died inside when I saw him cry for the first time
At the same table we ate slices of honey-glazed ham,
Chicken and pearl rice, where sweet potato pies
Cooled under the cover of Reynolds Wrap wax paper.