On the first day of each year, Uncle Harold must be the first to open my front door.
A man passing through early brings luck, the coal miners say. It’s in the blood.
At eighty, he visits his sisters’ homes before the first flake of sun, but saves mine
for last since my mama is the only one who cleans chitlins from a bucket of blood.
When he gets to my house, I empty my mouth full of hungry questions
about mountains, company stores, backyard strawberry patches bursting like blood.
Between slurps and burps downing his intestinal soup--Boy, this sum good eatin’
Sho’ put yo’ foot in this—he feeds my curiosity, its persistent, pumping blood.
In my day, come November o’ December, we’d butcher tha whole black hog—
from tha lis’ners to tha trotters! Me ’n men ’round tha holler. Catch even tha blood.
Daddy’d stun tha pig with a .22 clean b’tween tha eyeballs. No need to squander
good hide by frettin’ em’ ’bout tha end. Jitters carry spoil to tha meat through tha blood.
I see the vat of boiling water scalding off hair, hands scraping the tufts remaining,
and newly white pig skin, glistening like pearls, readied to spill guts urgent with blood.
What could bring more closeness than cutting off back fat, stewing neck bones?
Rationing out side meat, feet and hams for families to share, like blood?
We used ev’ry thang ’cept ’fo the oink! What can I salvage from this heritage? History
has wasted black bodies, catalogued with no names, with no lines of blood.
Isn’t every black living thing eventually drained?
Lauren, will you ever inherit wholeness? Or just stories, richer than blood?
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L. RENÉE is a poet from Columbus, Ohio. She is a third-year MFA candidate at Indiana University, where she has served as nonfiction editor of the Indiana Review and associate director of the Indiana University Writers’ Conference. Her work has been supported by Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference. She is the recipient of the 2020 IU Guy Lemmon Award in Public Writing, 2019 IU Writers in South Asia Award and 2018 Alumni Award Fellowship from the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Tin House online, Poet Lore, the Minnesota Review, Appalachian Heritage, and New Limestone Review. She believes in Black joy and shares some of it @lreneepoems.