A History

My father takes me to the basement
and shows me the jar of corn that was canned
during the Depression when he was five.
He tells me the day was hot in Floyd County,

and locusts sang from the pine-covered hills
while he carried wood for the stove and water
to boil the jars. The pile of shucks rose
on the porch, and Roosevelt spoke on the radio.

His mother, he says, was beautiful.
I nod my head yes.
I have seen the pictures.
I do not tell my father how the summer before

she died, Granny showed me the jar of corn,
showed me the scar across her palm she got
when the knife slipped. She had sent him to find
Pa-dad who drank the money from his alphabet job

and passed out in the coalhouse. She said
my father hugged her close, told her he loved her.
Then always this jar of corn,
too bitter to eat, too valuable to throw away.

:: Tim Skeen, Kentucky Swami (2001)

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