This piece first appeared in Issue #51 of our Gravy quarterly.

Canning Memories

A poem

by Frank X Walker

Indian summer

meant Saturday morning courtyards

and door screens opened and waiting

for urban signs of harvest.

No new moons or first frosts,

just the welcome staccato and horn

of an old flatbed truck, overalls

and mud-caked boots.

Grandmothers who still clicked

their tongues and called up the sound

of a tractor in the daybreak,

the aroma of fresh turned earth

and the secret location of the best

blackberry patch

like they were remembering

old lovers,

planted themselves

a half squint away from the palming

and weighing of potatoes

stringbeans, kale, turnips, sweetcorn

onions and cabbage.

They seeded themselves

close enough to see each other

bent low in the fields, pulling weeds

dispensing verbal insecticide

gingham dresses gathered in front

cradling cucumbers and almost ready

Big Boy tomatoes

destined for kitchen window sills

and mason jars.

They break sacred ground far away

from the acres and acres of red brick

and concrete neighbors

to be close enough to the earth

to know that,

“if all city folk plant is family and friends

alls they gonna get is funerals.”

Frank X Walker is founder of the Affrilachian Poets and director of the African American and Africana Studies program at the University of Kentucky.