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True Autumn
Chanda Feldman

I return to the dead-end
street where I grew up, at the edge of
the county, at the foot of lavish
green hills, with dogwood- and magnolia-
plotted medians, where once a year,
my mother places a five gallon bucket
of chitlins straight from the deepfreeze
next to the stove’s warmth to thaw.
The long chain, slime-gray,
lovingly scrubbed clean of grit.
My mother says it’s not true autumn
without eating them, as vital as blood-
rich colored oak leaves. As a kid
I loved the slurp of entrails
slicking my throat, but I never forgot
my white neighborhood friends’ tables
set with bowls of lobster bisque
and baguette slices. Contained. Not all
food-juice mixing on the plate.
Over dinner my mother talked stories
of her father stringing hogs
for November slaughter as segue
to discussing black family mobility,
and my father drew imaginary lines
from stomach to mouth, a knife gutting
the hog body. How quickly matter
comes apart, as with words,
how to convey suburban two-acre-lot,
where my family feasts on saucy delicacies
while trading superstitions about haints
and spirits and, in the next breath,
discussing protons penetrating solids.
How I used to crave no barrier
between me and other families. I’d pass
through brick and into beige safety—
no jellied pig’s feet, no hot combs
smarting the ear, no smell
of oozing chitlins when it’s near winter
and too cold to throw open windows
as we did. Each time the house filled
with their sweet stench, I’d cover my nose,
my mother always scolding,
“Some people never eat like this.”

Cimarron Review
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