The Quotable


Along the drive to the Veterans Home,
Hawthorne trees are heavy with red berries. A squirrel
pummels the ground like a jack hammer, hiding
a horde of acorns. I enter the main building and stop
in the office to pick up white gloves and a cap to cover my hair.

In the dining room, old Jack sits near the window,
a blanket covering his knees. The holiday stirs memories
of his father’s farm on Chesapeake Bay. He tells me
about the Colonial era plantation, its creaky stairs, and huge brick-floored
kitchen. He asks, “Did I tell you about the annual frenzy at the cast iron stove?”

He brags they lived off the land. Thanksgiving was the main
event, signaling a sumptuous feast and bartering with neighboring
farmers: a bushel of Papa’s black walnuts for Mr. Adams’ corn-fed turkey;
sweet potatoes and corn in green husks for a gallon of uncle John’s honey;
mother’s home-churned butter for Mrs. Clay’s sweet peas.

I tie a bib around his neck and cut his meat. He goes on about flaky biscuits,
potato rolls, pumpkin pies, bread pudding and adds, “We had two cakes, coconut
and chocolate, baked from scratch with Mother’s own eggs and butter.” He says,
“the womenfolk choreographed dinner preparations while Papa, brother Bill
and the tenant farmer chopped and stacked wood to keep the stove and fireplace

blazing.” I serve his dinner now.
One fork-full at a time,
in this noisy room filled with white beards and bald heads.
He grins between bites, and savors
his instant mashed potatoes.


Gail Eisenhart is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and a former Board member of the St. Louis Poetry Center.  Her poems have appeared recently in Cantos, Assisi, Generations of Poetry, The Centrifugal Eye, The Oklahoma Review and in Flood Stage: an anthology of St. Louis Poets.  A retired Executive Assistant, she works part time at the Belleville (IL) Public Library and travels in her spare time, collecting memories that eventually show up in new poems.

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