- Yellow-Eye Beans
I sort them as I was taught(is this the way the Nornsallot destinies?) picking outgravel, bits of dirt,the shriveled, discolored onesnot fit to eat, fated forthe trash. Sort, rinse, soakovernight, season withonion, hog jowl, bacon grease.Some more objectiveobserver might see inmy kitchen gestures—sortingthese yellow-eye beans, orstringing half-runners, orrolling out pie crust or biscuits—my father's, and, behind those,his mother's, yours. Hillfolkhead for beans and cornbreadwhen the world turns surly—pinto, yellow-eye, October.These were your favorite.Simmering them, I remember you.
Nanny, what would you thinkof me now, twenty years afteryour death, with my bushygrizzly-bear beard, my myriadtattoos, my lust for chest hair,the man I live with? My guesswould be, after a short lectureon the Bible, a book I nevermuch cared about to begin with,you'd settle down to table [End Page 46] with us, admiring howhandsome this home isJohn's made for me. I'velearned a lot in twenty years,and at last it would be my turnto cook for you. I promiseyou'd be proudof how well the beansand cornbread came out(and if you like this meal,y'ought to tastemy buttermilk biscuits). Butbefore we ate, I'd inviteyou to say what graceyou wanted in this queerand pagan home, and so youwould, words brief and deep,Pass the chowchowfollowing closely on Amen. [End Page 47]
Jeff Mann grew up in Hinton, West Virginia, and Covington, Virginia, and now teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech. He has published three poetry chapbooks, three collections of poetry, two books of personal essays, one volume of both poetry and memoir, and a collection of short fiction.