OK, y’all. This week’s Spin Cycle is supposed to be a poem. This one is almost impossible for me, because I practically cut my teeth on poems. My beloved grandmother, who passed on October 23 of last year, was a prolific poet and artist. I already have posted several of her poems on my blog. And, since my life’s goal was to be exactly like her, I started writing poetry when I was about nine years old. In searching through my archives of poems, both hers and mine, I finally decided on this one.
Being able to cook up a good mess of collards is the number one requirement of being a true southern cook, y’all. This poem is, I think, the last one my grandmother ever wrote. I found this hand written copy, dated May 2007, tucked away in one of her journals – the writing scribbled and hard to read, due to her failing eyesight. It is about one of her’s (and mine) favorite things….collard greens.
I think I know what inspired her to write this poem. My Aunt Barbara, who was was my grandmother’s daughter-in-law, and refered to as her “adopted daughter” in this poem, remarried a man named Benny, after my uncle died. Benny, who is from Pennsylvania, never ate a collard green in his life, until he married Barbara and moved down south. He loved them so much, that he decided to try and grow them in his backyard.
Barbara, being one of those southern gals who’d rather spend the day shopping at Dillards than slaving away over the hot stove, had no idea how to cook them. So she did what all us southern women do in a pinch. She called up her southern mama, “Miss Gladys.”
This poem is the answer she got.
By Gladys Parker
When I was forty or so
And you were my daughter, adopted you know
I would don my apron the old fashioned way
Because you were coming for Mother’s Day.
Here’s the collard patch, right outside
It looks a little country-fied
But, begging your pardon,
I like my garden.
The collards were cropped, a leaf off each one.
It makes them grow better – they get big in the sun.
Summer collards are okay to eat,
But winter collards are tender and sweet.
The pot is boiling with a streak of lean.
(Slab bacon, maybe, is what I mean.)
When the meat is tender the fork will tell.
Each leaf examined and cleaned very well.
Now, twist each leaf half in two
Place in the pot, like good cooks do
Cook ‘til tender and seasoned to taste
Drain – nothing goes to waste.
Even the “pot liquor” is good for you.
Or corn meal dumplings, cooked like I do.
So chop up the greens nice and fine
And they will taste just like mine.