Harriette Winslow and Aunt Rachel Clean Collard Greens on Prime Time Television
In their dollhouse kitchen,
they clean a bouquet
while the comedy of errors
unfolds around them—
Harriette in her pantsuit and that blackmother
smirk that signals the hard love only a mother
can muster. This, holy kitchen,
culinary sanctuary, covers them
in light, its white glory a bouquet
around their perfect hair. Their fingers know no errors
as they pick and place the collards.
There was an earthy magic in my mother cleaning collards,
their mineral scent, the sink-full of water my mother
plunged them into, the water which washed them of their errors—
greens baptized, clean from sediment and rock, our kitchen
sink her pulpit, the leafy bouquet
her holy book. How we wished we could be them,
touched by our mother’s godly hands, then
cleaned so well we forgot they were just collards—
they glistened, a sparkling bouquet
of dinner-yet-to-come, so loved by our mother
that even they forgot their natural bitterness. A kitchen
is sweetened when collards are cooking, the air a
swelling porkfat perfume, the onion’s pungent terror
nulled by the ribboned greens—I loved to watch my mother cut them,
roll the piles of flat foliage up like a cigar, the kitchen
knife shining against a tight army of collards.
We needed no superheroes when we had her, a mother
to rival every black mom on cable—no fragrant bouquet
could rival the smell of her greens and cornbread, the bouquet
of cotton swabs and peroxide she’d use to sanitize our playground errors.
She was a magician, more than just another mother—
she could turn an afro into a constellation of braids, adorn them
with a galaxy of beads. She could turn a sprawling batch of collards
into a smooth and savory feast, a world exploding in her small kitchen.
Someday, mother, I will inherit that sweet bouquet
of cocoa butter, Blue Magic, kitchen smoke and calm night air,
the perfume of black motherhood. One day, I will learn how to cook them collards.
Copyright © 2019 by Ashley M. Jones. From dark//thing (Pleiades Press, 2019). Used with permission of the author.