- Cast-Iron Ghazal
My mouth won’t ever forget her skill with a skillet,my father’s mother, cookingwith her mother’s skillet.
Looking deep into its heavy antique mirror, I seeher wedding day: white dressand this coal-dark skillet.
Heaven was bacon’s sizzle waking my ears and nose.Or was it one of her chickensslow-frying in the skillet?
Her husband once took it hunting without asking:she said she’d bust his skullwith that upraised skillet.
Fire-born bell whose clapper was a plain dinner fork,juicy fauna and flora notesrang out from her skillet.
I see early widowhood, cooked-for children gone:darkness lends its seasoningto every cast-iron skillet.
She hid its teardrop handle inside her strong gripwhen pouring red-eye gravyfrom one lip of the skillet.
What went into the oven as batter we two mixedcame out as cornbread glory,steaming amen in a skillet.
Black as her Bible, black as her once-maiden hair,black as a panther howlingat midnight, this skillet. [End Page 119]
I see her funeral day, the kitchen filled with foodnot made by her, no flamekissing the empty skillet.
I say McFee into its circle, hear her savory voicegiving back the family namefrom her (now my) skillet. [End Page 120]
Michael McFee teaches poetry writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published ten collections of poetry (most recently That Was Oasis), a collection of essays (The Napkin Manuscripts), and three anthologies, including The Language They Speak Is Things to Eat: Poems by Fifteen Contemporary North Carolina Poets.