Walking into my grandmother’s kitchen
feels like a slow applause under the skin.
The smell of something two-toned,
baked, or scorched just right
like bramble spices or buttermilk.
On summer Sundays the family Bible
comes out and the tablecloth stays clean.
Bone china, the set reserved for company
little glass jugs of syrup, brown-eyed
Susans picked from their beds, butter
spilling over like a dream, and pears
so green it bows the body inward.
In the corner a dog named Coca sniffs
for scraps or sausage to roll his way.
Don’t feed that dog, she says
I’ll be the one cleaning his shitty belly
on the Lord’s day, don’t feed that dog.
All is fame for the color burgundy.
Wide-brimmed church hats, heavy tights
cause good girls don’t bare naked legs
on Sunday, and her June house dress
that gapped two inches in the front.
Under its folds, the muscles are doughy
from three babies grown, gone.
They all ran to this kitchen, tooth-
gapped, short dark arms stretched
out to say give me mama, give me.
When she calls our names now, grand-
daughter one and two, we move
to the table like red ants coming in
from the sun, waiting to nibble biscuits,
holy gossip, and a salty hymn or two.
Cynthia Manick is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet with a MFA in Creative Writing from the New School. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Hedgebrook, and the Vermont Studio Center. A 2013 finalist for the Split This Rock Poetry Competition and the Yes Yes Books Open Book Competition, Manick’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in African American Review, BLACKBERRY: a magazine, Callaloo, DMQ Review, Gemini Magazine, Kinfolks Quarterly, Kweli Journal, Muzzle Magazine, PLUCK!, Sou’wester, Spillway, The Cossack Review, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Weary Blues, Tidal Basin, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.