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Ode to the Black-eyed Pea

by Sandra Bounds

Kudos to the Black-eyed Pea!

Unlike the tomato, this legume
is not nor ever has been a fruit.
This delicious and healthful vegetable
graces every table of Mississippi,
and its nutty flavor pleases the palate
as it provides energy for farmers
who toil in their fields helping
to feed and clothe the world.

Yankees do not include this pea
on their menus. They prefer to dine
on Great Northern Beans, a pale
and pallid substitute for field peas.
Served with hot cornbread, sliced
tomatoes, and fried corn, Black-eyed
peas, like ambrosia, are food for the gods,
and those who do not enjoy this robust,
tasty fare are suspect.

This vegetable, like the people of Mississippi,
is resilient and tough. Its vines hardly wilt
under the strident glare of Summer’s sun,
even though the slightest shower refreshes
and renews when drought does occur. The people
of Mississippi suffer the heat of disaster,
but like the Phoenix, they rise from the ashes
with renewed hope to rebuild, to start over.

Once again, kudos to the Black-eyed Pea,
staple of the Mississippi diet.

Sandra Bounds was born in Mississippi and lives in Macon. She has a Master of Arts in English and has taught in both high school and community college. An active member of the Mississippi Poetry Society, she was its 2005 Poet of the Year, and the society published a chapbook of her poetry to honor that selection. She has won many awards in contests sponsored by the society and has been published in such journals as Art Gulf Coast,  The Lyric, The Road Not Taken, Sharing, The Well-Tempered Sonnet and Westward Quarterly. Readers may remember her from her poem, “Mississippi Speaks,” published last September. 

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  • beth / January 2, 2013

    love this poem!!!!

  • Adelle / January 2, 2013


  • Holly / January 2, 2013

    Well said !

  • tom / January 2, 2013

    black eyed peas and new years- a southern tradition!

  • will / January 2, 2013

    fun poem about a pea

  • barbara / January 3, 2013

    love this descriptive poem of a southern favorite!!

  • Penny / January 12, 2013

    When I am feeling down, it is not a northern bean that I turn to, but the magnificent down-home black eyed pea. Cooked with some ham-hock or bacon, a pan of hot buttermilk cornbread on the side with chowchow relish or peppersauce and a sliced onion. Once again, I feel the comfort of my grandmother’s kitchen and the smells that made my tastebuds beg for satisfaction. Lovely black eyed pea, you rule my gastronomical world!

  • John / January 14, 2013

    Incredible Southern Poet Kevin Young has a poem by this same title. Check out his book entitled Dear Darkness. It includes odes to a whole range of soul foods.

  • Lighthub / August 17, 2020

    This poem piqued my interest for Black-eyed Pea.