“Mange. Mange,” Maw-Maw murmured as I scooped sausage out of the bowlful of gumbo, her irritation twitching in her gestures. A long bowl it was, long-savored, in part, to twitch her as she stood with dripping washrag, waiting to wipe the table. I took the word away—“mange”—“manger” its infinitive I learned years later in Dr. Zaumbracher’s class— “to eat.” Her final Christmas, we fed her blackbird gumbo, until she choked and her heart twitched with a last agitation. Sometimes—when standing at the stove, alone, stirring roux and feeling, suddenly, the touch of unseen vision like a sunbeam on my back, or hearing in the shifting wind the lisping of distant syllables—sometimes, I wonder if the old ones have fooled us with names and dates in stone; if grandmeres and grandperes, noncs and tantes are not audience to our lives. Are we things of precious pity to them like a porcelain infant laid upon straw among cattle, waiting in the silence of our innocence for the world to eat?
Michael Alleman teaches English, theatre, and history at Louisiana State University Eunice. He earned an M.A in English and an M.F.A in Creative Writing from McNeese State and a Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. His poetry has appeared in Chiron Review, PBW, Illya’s Honey, Grasslands Review, and Short, Fast, and Deadly. He lives with his wife Angela in a century-old farmhouse in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana.