HomeSouthern VoiceA Pair of Poems About Fried Chicken

A Pair of Poems About Fried Chicken

How To Eat Fried Chicken
by Kellie Webb

The table, coarse oak at its best,
Settles in the earth,
Its roots strong, deep.
Sister snaps the cloth,
White as the snow that never falls here,
It fluffs, floats, rests,
Snugging the rounded corners
As the Summer wind tugs, then flies away,
Baby-girl’s giggles the melody it carries.

She staggers, that limping duck-walk she has,
Grasping at the cloth with fat fingers
Covered in the mud she’s been playing with
When no one was looking.
Daddy picks her up from behind,
Perhaps with a scolding on his tongue,
But her three-tooth smile stops him
And he laughs as he tosses her in the air,
His big, lumpy hands, hard from sun up to sun down work,
Catch her and contain the shriek of pleasure that shakes her little body.

Sister smiles as Baby smiles,
Crisp grass tickling her toes as she takes Baby from Daddy.
He pats Sister on the head, his fingers dancing over her neck,
Making her squirm and squeak.
She puts Baby on her hip and slaps at Daddy’s arm
As he walks to the barn to check on the afternoon milking.
Mama calls from the house for Sister to help with the food
And Mama, her apron stained with years of meals,
Carries the plate of golden, crusted cornbread to the table.
Redbirds in the large oak tree on the hill come to attention,
Anticipation of dropped crumbs and gifted scraps shivering through them.
Chirp and tweet. Settle and wait.

Sister has a pitcher of sun tea in her hand,
Sweat drips from the glass to slide over her skin
As she steps over Baby who is already wriggling her way back into trouble
By pulling on Pup’s tail.
Pup, named so when he was actually a puppy,
Was towering now, having grown into the oversized paws that he’d been born with
Just like Daddy said he would.
Pup’s too used to Baby pulling on him in some way,
So he nudges her stomach with his dark wet nose and kisses her on the face
With his sloppy tongue.

Mama orders Pup to the barn as she scoops up Baby.
She shakes her head in the way that she does when she’s not mad,
But not happy, either. She walks back to the house
Mumbling about her children, soothing a hand down Baby’s back
And Baby rests her head on Mama’s shoulder.
Pup lets out a yip of fun as Brother tackles him and they
Wrestle on the grass.  Boy and dog, happy just to be in each other’s sight.
Daddy whistles for Pup before he closes the barn door, and with one last tussle,
Pup races off to his stall where’s he’s slept since he was born.
Daddy pumps water at the well and Brother cleans his arms as best he can
Before Mama finds out that he played with the dog before supper.
She already knows, though. She knows everything.

Sister finishes setting the table, the mix-matched plates
Collected since Mama and Daddy were married a bright party against the tablecloth.
Green beans, lanky and steaming, the bright color like Spring in a bowl.
Cornbread, crumbling and cushiony, fitting perfectly in the platter.
Okra, dark and pickled, the sour smell a twist in the air.
Potatoes, crème with dribbles of yellow, straight to swallowing.
And chicken. Fried golden, crisp, and perfect with frozen flour ridges forming the shell.
Mama puts Baby on her knee as she sits across from Daddy.
Daddy, his tan line showing from the folded edges of his rolled up sleeves,
Points at Brother when he tries to grab at a piece of chicken.
Brother snatches his hand back and bows his head.

I sit under the oak, watching with the birds.
Watching Daddy, Mama, Sister, Brother and Baby.
They never go far from the little white stone that’s me.
Daddy glances at me and I smile at him.
I think he knows I do since he smiles back
Before he bows his head and starts to pray.
I close my eyes and listen to his voice,
Deep like the earth,
Open like the big, wide sky.
Amen.

Brother grabs the piece that Sister wanted,
Baby drools softly, the potatoes dripping down her bright face,
Mama wipes at Baby’s mouth and kisses her on top of her fire-yarn hair,
Daddy puts his napkin in his lap, the gentleman farmer.
Summer smiles and the trees sway in beat to the gentle wind as we eat and laugh.
It’s a good day.

Kellie Webb is currently an undergraduate senior at the University of South Alabama, majoring in English/Creative Writing. Her writing is heavily influenced by her upbringing in what her family refers to as “a hollar” in the Deep South, a.k.a Southern Mississippi. She has been writing poetry since elementary school when she figured out that, besides reading, writing made her the happiest. 

Good Fried Chicken Is Hard to Find
by Thomas Cochran

In Epps our crew ate dinner
at a place I remember
as a saloon you crossed
a wood-plank porch to enter.
We drank no whiskey there,
only cool water and sweet tea.
But they served memorable ice cream
and the only fried chicken
I’ve ever had away from home
that I could finish—
except at school in Haynesville,
where Mrs. Meadors and her staff
worked deep black skillets
like a quartet of maestros.

Thomas Cochran was raised in Haynesville, Louisiana. His work includes the novels “Roughnecks” and “Running the Dogs,” both set in his fictional Oil Camp, based on Haynesville. Nonfiction and poetry have appeared under his name in The Oxford American, Rattle, Gray’s Sporting Journal and other publications.  A schoolteacher by trade, Cochran currently lives with his wife on a mountain in rural northwest Arkansas.

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