Cast-Iron Ghazal

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Cast-Iron Ghazal

by Michael McFee
Southern Cultures, Vol. 21, No. 1: Food

"darkness lends its seasoning to every cast-iron skillet . . ."

My mouth won’t ever forget her skill with a skillet,
my father’s mother, cooking
with her mother’s skillet.

Looking deep into its heavy antique mirror, I see
her wedding day: white dress
and this coal-dark skillet.

Heaven was bacon’s sizzle waking my ears and nose.
Or was it one of her chickens
slow-frying in the skillet?

Her husband once took it hunting without asking:
she said she’d bust his skull
with that upraised skillet.

Fire-born bell whose clapper was a plain dinner fork,
juicy fauna and flora notes
rang out from her skillet.

I see early widowhood, cooked-for children gone:
darkness lends its seasoning
to every cast-iron skillet.

She hid its teardrop handle inside her strong grip
when pouring red-eye gravy
from one lip of the skillet.

What went into the oven as batter we two mixed
came out as cornbread glory,
steaming amen in a skillet.

Black as her Bible, black as her once-maiden hair,
black as a panther howling
at midnight, this skillet.

I see her funeral day, the kitchen filled with food
not made by her, no flame
kissing the empty skillet.

I say McFee into its circle, hear her savory voice
giving back the family name
from her (now my) skillet.