Word goes out, and they start to come
from close and far, leaving behind the cleaning
and sawmill and fields, the ironing and TV,
somehow fitting themselves
into patterns as stable as the seasons:
the widows first, in better tune with this sort of thing:
“Honey, I just heard . . .” but with warning enough
to have both hands full and another platter in the car.
And then the couples, she always in front:
“Here’s a little something to tide you over . . .”
and he shuffling silently behind.
And somehow with no planning,
variety appears on the table and sideboard:
rolls and pies, layer cakes and a bowl of snaps,
Jell-O salads and pickles and ham biscuits,
pound cake and deviled eggs . . .
Without planning, no one dish like another,
and though every table, every counter top is covered,
there’s nothing you can’t use—
enough for you and family from out of town,
and in the freezer for the days after.
Without planning, some are late a week or more,
and then come with soup and homemade bread
and sit at the kitchen table and eat it with you,
and drink coffee and talk into the evening,
patting your hand once in a while.
Without planning there’s leftover pecan pie
for the preacher when he drops in the next week,
enough to send a slice home with him.
Without planning you wake up nights
groping the other side of the bed.
Without planning you cook a dish that you never liked.
Without planning you resume your accustomed pew,
one place from the end.
Without planning you find that you have read the Bible through.
Without planning you save some slices of country ham,
bake some extra peach cobblers and a meatloaf,
wrap them carefully, and set them aside in the freezer.
And when that unplanned season comes,
you drop everything you’re doing and go a-visiting,
both hands full and a platter in the car,
your lips saying, “Honey, I just heard . . .”
Feeding your neighbors with a food like no other.