In Mississippi, we squeeze life from the ground,
bite it raw allowing it’s juices to baptize our taste buds,
sucking the soul of sweetness that sacrificed itself for us.
Sometimes, we batter it and drop wishes into hot grease,
allowing our dreams to become golden brown
as we give praise offerings with well-buttered yams
whose sunset-orange aroma gave an Invisible Man new life.
One time, Big Mama tanned my caramel hide
for picking her jade tomatoes before their reddishly ripe time.
Yet their fried goodness was well-worth the crucifixion
for salvation is always found in a simmering skillet
worked by hands that can shell peas and cast spells
to feed a family of forty with four fish and a whole lotta fries.
I once had a midnight beauty break bread
and make magic in a kitchen that became our church.
She offered me a meal
like we were having communion.
Surrounded in silk smooth sauces and thick tangy gravy,
she submerged me in peas, greens, and beans
as cornbread became a life preserver
to sop spirits flowing like pot liquor
that christened my shabby soul while Karo syrup
became a balm to soothe the scars left by plantation misfortune.
On the altar of our dinner table,
we allowed ourselves to be anointed by
butterscotch smiles dipped in cinnamon tears,
while the swirling scent of mocha earth,
plumb peaches, baked chicken, and pecan pie
reminded us that God is food.
And, in Mississippi, we eat because
His body is the Gift of our sustenance.
-C. Leigh McInnis*
*C. Liegh McInnis is a poet, short story writer, retired instructor of English at Jackson State University, former editor/publisher of Black Magnolias Literary Journal, and author of eight books, including four collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction (Scripts: Sketches and Tales of Urban Mississippi), one work of literary criticism (The Lyrics of Prince: A Literary Look), one co-authored work, Brother Hollis: The Sankofa of a Movement Man, which discusses the life of legendary Mississippi Civil Rights icon, and former First Runner-Up of the Amiri Baraka/Sonia Sanchez Poetry Award. Additionally, he has been published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. He can be reached at his website http://www.