My Grandmother’s House

Congratulations to Deborah J. Hunter, the 2022 Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize Runner-Up for “My Grandmother’s House”

Photo courtesy of author.

My grandmother’s house was made of
strong, black coffee cooked in white enamel
on gas burners lit with sturdy kitchen matches
of some unnamed wood with magical sulfur heads
that sparked blue and yellow flame and smelled like a sneeze.

It was made of
grape Nehi in returnable bottles,
Quaker Oats, evaporated milk,
pork chops and red eye gravy,
beets picked and pickled by hand,
cracklin’ bread and buttermilk,
wrestling match Saturdays and
Mahalia Jackson Sundays.

She decorated it with
peace roses
hens and chicks
and zinnias.

Pictures on the walls
held up the house:
Jesus with children at his feet,
Jesus at the table of his last supper,
Jesus in the upper room with flaming tongues,
Jesus lingering on the cross;
all the Jesuses with anemic skin and azure eyes
declaring salvation comes from a white man.

I learned,
a brown girl with braids and bow legs,
in the house my grandmother made.
I learned to doubt.

Deborah J. Hunter is an awarded and recognized Oklahoma poet, playwright, essayist, actor, teaching artist, workshop facilitator and social justice activist. She spent most of her childhood years in her grandmother’s house, on her lap and in her circle of protection.
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