Granny Wise Never Misses a Mardi Gras Feast
by Katie Bickham
But that don’t mean I’m Catholic, I’d like you to know.
Ain’t got knees built for kneeling, not a thing to confess.
There’s plenty a sacrifice starving us all
without acting a martyr and swearing off meat.
There’s a feast to prepare in the Terrebonne heat,
ripe with cayenne and thyme and the kids
and their kids all play under my feet on the floors
warped with rain – their damp odor the same
as when I was a girl. The night comes to a boil.
If them Catholics fear hell, hell, just send ‘em down here.
I’ll be damned if Death Valley can’t match it for heat,
seven feet below sea-level, bugs like a plague.
I don’t care for the doctrine, but some truths are fixed –
the bouquet of a place several hundred years old
where the recipe smells start to pickle the wood,
where the hurricanes claw at the oaks and your bones.
Forty days in the desert ain’t got shit on a woman’s long life
in the Deep South abyss, no fit place but for those
bubbled up with unquenchable dry-mouthed desire
for a saltier life, to be swollen with things.
We dump crawfish on newsprint, all stuck to our clothes.
Let ‘em starve in the desert. The world’s made for feasting.
I instruct the young children on cracking the shells
and rub ice on their faces, our mouths all on fire.
There are ways the wind blows, make you feel like a ghost,
and I wonder how many good storms are left in me,
how many more pots of dark roux, loaves of bread,
and what they’ll all do to remember me then.
The mosquitoes are starved in the valley of death
and, as manners dictate, we oblige with our blood.
Born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Katie Bickham is proud to enter a rich cultural tradition of distinctly Southern verse. She is an instructor of English Literature at Bossier Parish Community College and a procurer of oddly shaped shelter dogs. Since earning her BA in English and MA in Liberal Arts from Louisiana State University in Shreveport, she has been working toward her MFA from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Recently, her work has been featured in The Journal of Formal Poetry and has been selected for the Editor’s Prize in the Missouri Review.