Cornbread and pinto beans spread
across a porcelain plate, topped
with bitingly sour pickled vegetables
and a tiny mountain of boiled potatoes.

Each mouthful is a taste of my life:
Tennessee Valley poverty, hot and lasting;
comfort, steaming and starchy, in the books
I devoured while hiding behind the house
children, constant and consistent;
bitterness beside a broken, angry man.

This meal is better served in solitude.
Others taste the medley of flavors
and smile politely, admiring its simplicity.
They do not feel the ground shift
under their feet as they chew, do not
savor each forkful until it sends them
into another decade, where their mother
stands, plump and buxom, young
and self-centered and exactly right.

I take this bite alone. I do not share.
I float through time, a mere visitor,
feeling thousands of tiny heartbreaks
and go back, still, for more.