Bay Leaves --- Nikki Giovanni I watched Mommy Cook Though I cooked With Grandmother With Grandmother I learned To pluck chickens Peel carrots Turn chittlins inside out Scrub pig feet With Mommy I watched leftovers for stew Or vegetable soup Great northern beans Mixed collards turnips and mustard greens Garlic cloves Bay Leaves Very beautifully green Stiff so fresh With just a pinch of salt Not everything together All the time but all the time Keeping everything I make my own Frontier soup in a crock pot I make my own ice cream with a pinch of salt And everything else With garlic But fresh Bay Leaves Are only for very special Ox Tails https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/159787/bay-leaves
I Watched Mommy Cook in the Elmer Street kitchen, standing at the gas stove, stirring a steaming pot of grits, pulling crackling rib roasts from the oven, bent down to slip the broiler pan from underneath, flip sizzling lamb chops with metal tongs, face glowing fine with thin sweat, black hair falling free from its clip to tickle her fair neck, tired smile. I thought every mother created four course meals during the week, covered all four food groups, satisfied her husband's eclectic taste, European schedule, his stern rule for pre-dinner silence, his demand for obedience at the table. I thought every mother bent her intelligence, curiosity, and quick wit into a brick house filled with a man's precious things. She taught me to bake. At 8, I made a cake, cherry from a box, red bits bright as blood, then the icing whipped from scratch, thick butter laced with boiled sugar, that sat on our tongues like sweet oily paste.
Suggested soundtrack: The Talking Heads, “Burning Down the House”