Vox Populi

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Michael Simms: The Pecan Grove

Zelphia Irene Slavens Cook (1904-1983)

Melvin Arlin Cook (1905-1992)

.

Shadow of the pecan tree sways

on the rusty screen. The kitchen sink

has been scrubbed until black pits

shine in the cracked porcelain.

The Irish-Cherokee girl shells pecans

until her fingers bleed, a bead

of sweat lingers on the ball

of her nose, hesitates and falls

on the flattened dough of pie shell.

She is the salt that seasons, the soda

that leavens, the rolling pin that pushed

me into place. I imagine her in heaven

making pies – cherry, chocolate, peach, pecan,

mincemeat, lemon (leave the seeds in

so they’ll know it’s real)

Pastries swollen like moons orbiting the holiday.

Grandmother of my sorrow, grandmother

of my anger

                        grandmother

of the hickory switch, fig tree,

peach tree, cigarettes and coffee

the station wagon is leaving the driveway

a last time, children piled high

on blankets, a long sleep home

*

Never a chance to say goodbye

to say how much I loved that boy

who was my grandfather

Mr. Cook his wife called him

as if he was all growed up

his daughters despised him

He taught me how to crack

two pecans in a bare hand

how to spit and cuss like a man

how to cheat at solitaire

Gallivantin’ around town

wasting money with his buddies

he taught me

the geometry of carpentry

the mysteries

of plumbing, told me

dirty jokes

He spent his daughters’ college fund

on country club dues

so his daughters refused

to say a prayer over his body

Those four tight-lipped matrons

shipped off his body

a humanitarian donation

They put him on a stainless-steel table

sliced him from the hollow

of his throat

to the swell of his groin

They pulled out heart

liver, spleen

like you’d dump a bag

of groceries

I didn’t see it

I wasn’t there

I wasn’t anywhere near

Texas Baylor Medical School

I was in Pittsburgh

Where my wife was making a wreath

of rowan and hemlock and dahlias

We went to the Point

where two rivers merge

and flow into another life

We threw the wreath

in the waters

and my small son

said goodbye Daddy Cook

and we watched the wreath

caught in two currents

floating, not moving

not moving at all

we went home

to our good life


Copyright 2021 Michael Simms. From Nightjar (Ragged Sky, 2021).

Michael Simms is the founding editor of Vox Populi. His books include American Ash (Ragged Sky, 2020)

Photograph by Renee Wallace

22 comments on “Michael Simms: The Pecan Grove

  1. Mary B Moore
    December 18, 2022

    Beautiful work, Michael. A well-painted portrait.

    Like

  2. John Samuel Tieman
    December 17, 2022

    This is simply beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Saleh Razzouk
    December 17, 2022

    Good indeed.
    Reminds me of Mr. Fadhel Cook (Tabbahk , in Arabic). He taught the english class at the university of Aleppo. Introduced me to few Americans working with ICARDA international.
    He edited Tale of Two Cities for Syrian Schools. Published over some 20 years in hundred of thousands of copies. Finally he applied for a post in Britain to flee the war. But was not accepted. Instead he lost his villa in Aleppo and found a little flat above a hostel.
    The heart beats…..
    Another warm example fro mr. Simms.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. sabinso
    December 17, 2022

    very powerful

    Liked by 1 person

  5. maryfranceswagner
    December 17, 2022

    love these.

    Like

  6. Loranneke
    December 17, 2022

    I can SEE them! I loved re-reading that poem, Michael. I love that “Mr.Cook”! And oh, those miffed sisters…

    Like

    • Vox Populi
      December 17, 2022

      Thanks, Laure-Anne. Praise for my poetry from you is golden. You have such a gift.

      >

      Like

  7. Rose Mary Boehm
    December 17, 2022

    Yes. “We went home to our good life” I feel that way almost every day and wonder how I can.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      December 17, 2022

      Yes, Eva and I have a very good life, although the world seems to be crumbling around us.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. edisonmarshalljenningsgmailcom
    December 17, 2022

    Wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. giulio2711
    December 17, 2022

    Thank-you Michael for this important tear of a poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. David Adès
    December 17, 2022

    This is wonderful, Michael. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sean Sexton
    December 17, 2022

    Lovely poem!
    Clear as this chilly morning sky will be in half an hour. Time for clarity.
    Thankyou

    Liked by 2 people

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