Homemade, (n., adj.)
In my mind, it is resolute.
No singe or zing like the 16th
century fire-new & brand-new—fresh
from the forge or furnace, nor
mysterious as brand-spanking-new
which shows up later, meaning
remarkable, what we once called
store-bought. The word lives in the mouth
humbly, firmly; strolls arm-in-arm
down the lane with homemaker, made-up,
homebody. Stays on the farm.
Goes to bed by nine. Lives the good
life by its own denotation,
in its own time.
A constant economy: collards
& okra & corn, weekly white
or wheat, litter-smudged eggs, cream hauled
from the dairy tank, dowsed over
oatmeal each day—5 a.m.,
a quaint time, we thought, drowsy
on our milk cans painted green
for bar stools when what we wanted
was what any kid in the 70s
wanted : Wonder Bread & Cheese Whiz,
Jiffy Pop & Pop Tarts, when poke
salad & elderberry jelly
named the past like cannonballs &
arrowheads ploughed up from the War
Between the States, the Trail of Tears,
kept in a toolbox under the sink,
nothing as fine as dandelion
wine, cornbread from scratch, pork drippings
to coffee cans, rendered from hogs
butchered off Route 8. We saved everything:
pins & lids, rubber bands & sacks,
fabric of all kinds because you
never know, sayings repeated,
recycled in each household we knew.
A famous artist once told me:
homemade & handmade are country
& city mice—the difference between
Paris, Arkansas & Paris, France.
It was the dress that Frida wore
to 1st grade that day at J.J. Izard
Elementary. A long, red gown
with matching cap her grandmother
had sewn from a shower curtain.
The teachers circled at recess:
How sweet, how sweet… (the elastic
ringing her forehead when she took it
off to chase a season of killdeers).
Like my first tornado—that moment
the wind died & air stilled, a cloud
of debris back-lit by sunny skies.
It bodied the world: Que será,
será in the voice of Doris Day
through rooms where we held fat pencils
in small hands, learned the motions
of writing, the years it took to shape
the uniform line.
Once upon a time, in each town,
each city, time balls were lowered
to mark noon & why the tradition
in Times Square tells us a new year
has started; the year past, now departed.
Until 1883. That’s when
the railroads, the industries sliced
up the country by hour & with whom
would your allegiance be—the sun
or Wall Street? The latter so young, who knew
how the direction of the world
would follow like those diagrams
we saw in science class tracing
the earth’s rotation. How what we know,
what we have, how we make it changed
so quickly once the Spinning Jinny
arrived, Jinny being short for engine,
sounding like a girl twirling
widdershins among daisies &
dandelions. Others followed:
the power loom, the steam engine,
roads called macadam. To say homemade
is to reach back through a million
threads, imagine a single thing
& how long it might last.