by Sara Stephens

“The opposite of war isn’t peace; it’s creation.” – Jonathan Larson

My father salts his dinners as if they need to last through a war.
Not just the potatoes I mash with a stick of butter
or the lima beans, but the whole plate—
pork chop, biscuit, and all.

He must have inherited this taste
for strong seasoning or preservation
from his pilot father who, in the war,
was neither shot down over Midway
nor drowned in a burning bomber’s belly.
He was spared death by melting Plexiglas
in a cockpit soldered shut by fire.

After a diet of canned greens and beans
for a full term over Japan, I’d need
salt to taste anything too. Lord knows
I’d want to savor my wife’s white-corn pudding,
draw out with each sprinkled grain
a little more of the milk and butter
I’d missed among all the nonperishables.
That’s a dinner that’ll bring a man home from war
in as many pieces as it takes,

and I imagine my grandmother Lee
elegant as her legs were long,
smoke-dark curls barrel-round
around her white throat, pulling him
back together in the dimming light, unsoldered,
her white belly already churning and building
the beginnings of my father as they slept.

Sara Stephens grew up in Memphis and now teaches composition and creative writing at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, where there is no winter and where she is currently a candidate for an MFA in poetry. Her work has previously appeared in Crescent Magazine and The Ohio River Review. 

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  • Janna Hill / April 12, 2013

    What a beautiful composition, creating images that pull at the heart.