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  • Writer's pictureJerri Lynn Sparks

Fatback

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

A poem about my Cherokee grandmother What I remember most is the sizzle of fatback as it hit the cast iron skillet The scent of bacon filling the tiny places that comprised my childhood and distill it She’d be standing there in her house coat on some cold winter morning in this simple shack long brown hair pulled back from her face exposing fine bones and a sturdy back She bore many children and many sorrows the deepest of which lays buried at the church She made fire out of rolled up newspaper with some cherry wood and a bit of birch A potbellied stove warmed the house and sometimes I’d see her pick up the coals with her bare and calloused hands toughened from a lifetime so exposed to loss and poverty and daily hard work but none of it ever took her beauty She was a quiet woman with a quiet way who always honored her sense of duty The last time I saw her was Christmas Eve gathered ‘round the table with crowded cousins four generations of hardscrabble descendants from a single quiet woman, these rowdy dozens Sometimes I see the daisies I picked for her twisting them into a necklace or a crown learning how to turn acorns into silver or whatever magic she had lying around And whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself in Winter’s cold with men who are hateful I remember the lessons of my grandmother who had so little but was always grateful


from a single quiet woman, these rowdy dozens...

Photo Credit: From Jerri Lynn Sparks' personal collection of family photos. The author is the tall brunette in the back row.


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