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.
Copyright © 2017 Michael McFee. From We Were Once Here (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2017) by Michael McFee. Used with permission of the author.