". . . where fat becomes faith, where juice conveys grace . . ."
Meat grease, flour and water, stirred till smooth—
it’s what my forebears ate, if they were lucky.
It’s what my mother ate, those hard dark years
she worked at a sawmill way out in the mountains,
learning to live on cigarettes and coffee
and cold biscuits raised from the dead by gravy.
Now and then she’d cook a little for us,
something to moisten and darken and quicken
the bowls of bland white rice or mashed potatoes
I’d shape into a cratered volcano
whose steaming lava overflow improved
everything it touched on my dinner plate.
Good gravy’s not an afterthought, a dressing,
a murky cloud masking a dish’s dull prospect:
whether poured from a Thanksgiving china boat
or a black iron skillet in Bloody Madison,
it’s the meal’s essence, where flesh meets spirit,
where fat becomes faith, where juice conveys grace
as red-eye, giblet, sausage, faithful sawmill—
whenever I think of those savory names
and the times I’ve poured or ladled or spooned
then mixed and dipped and sopped up their elixer,
not wanting to waste a single filling drop,
my mouth starts making its own thin gravy again.