From Gravy #51: “Canning Memories” By Frank X Walker
Indian Summer meant Saturday morning courtyards and door screens opened and waiting for urban signs of harvest. No new moons or first frosts, just the welcome staccato and horn of an old flatbed truck, overalls and mud-caked boots. Grandmothers who still clicked their tongues and called up the sound of a tractor in the daybreak, the aroma of fresh turned earth and the secret location of the best blackberry patch like they were remembering old lovers, planted themselves a half squint away from the palming and weighing of potatoes stringbeans, kale, turnips, sweetcorn onions and cabbage. They seeded themselves close enough to see each other bent low in the fields, pulling weeds dispensing verbal insecticide gingham dresses gathered in front Cradling cucumbers and almost ready Big Boy tomatoes destined for kitchen window sills and mason jars. They break sacred ground far away from the acres and acres of red brick and concrete neighbors to be close enough to the earth to know that, “if all city folk plant is family and friends alls they gonna get is funerals.” Frank X Walker is founder of the Affrilachian Poets and director of the African American and Africana Studies program at the University of Kentucky. “Canning Memories” was previously published in his poetry collection, Black Box. Read more about the diverse foodways of Appalachia (including an interview with Sean Brock) in the Southern Foodways Alliance’s quarterly publication, Gravy Issue #51.