Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The chewing gum of God

I am still catching up from Easter, and I haven't reported to you about our terrific experience a few weeks ago at the Virginia Festival of the Book, a Charlottesville annual event that brings in authors from everywhere to talk about their work.

I was particularly entranced by a talk and reading by Kevin Young, an African American poet who splits his time between Boston and Atlanta. His poems range over many themes, some woeful others quite joyful, some a mix of both. He read to us from a series of poems he wrote on food, and I loved them all.

This one, titled "Ode to Boudin," is the final poem in Young's book Dear Darkness. I like this almost as much as I like boudin, which we eat whenever visiting Lori's Louisiana relatives, which is not often enough. For those unacquainted with boudin, it is a Cajun delicacy of rice and meat inside a pork casing, kind of like sausage but not really. Usually you steam them until they burst. A priest friend of mine from Louisiana, Don White, swears boudin is Jesus' favorite dish.
Ode to Boudin
By Kevin Young
You are the chewing gum
of God. You are the reason
I know that skin
is only that, holds
more than it meets.
The heart of you is something
I don't quite get
but don't want to. Even
a fool like me can see
your broken
beauty, the way
out in this world where most
things disappear, driven
into ground, you are ground
already, & like rice
you rise. Drunken deacon,
sausage's half-brother,
jambalaya's baby mama,
you bring me back
to the beginning, to where things live
again. Homemade saviour,
you fed me the day
my father sat under the flowers
white as the gloves of pallbearers
tossed on his brier.
Soon, hands will lower him
into ground richer
than even you.
For now, root of all
remembrance, your thick chain
sets me spinning, thinking
of how, like the small,
perfect, possible, silent soul
you spill out
like music, my daddy
dead, or grief,
or both--afterward his sisters
my aunts dancing
in the yard to a car radio
tuned to zydeco
beneath the pecan trees

From Dear Darkness, by Kevin Young, 2008, Alfred A. Knopf, New York

No comments: