June 24, 2013


by Janice Harrington

And the mornings were cast iron.
The men’s overalls, the women’s hair,

and the nights were cast iron. The clatter
of kudzu leaves was the clatter of iron lids.

And the flies that settled wore cast-iron wings.
And the stench of the outhouse was a cast

iron stench, and the baby’s cry fell heavy
as a frying pan. And the rain was cast iron,

each splat of gray a skillet lid, each spill
a kettle of potlikker. Their beds were cast

iron and so too the thighs wrapped round
his hips and the way he shook and withered

out. The heat was cast iron, and the greasy
sun dripped its lard light against their skin,

sweat welling like water sprizzled on a hot
griddle. And their skin was cast iron,

and living was fatback, turned slowly
and browned, what you had to eat, even

if it wasn’t the best. And cast iron their sleep,
cast iron their throats and their jubilee.

If a man is paid eight cents for a pound
of cotton that is cast iron too. If he leaves

for Detroit or Kansas City or Chicago, he’ll pack
a cast-iron suitcase and fill it with cast iron.

And if he says, Things’ll be bedda up there,
his smile will be seasoned and impermeable.

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