While Looking for Eating Utensils in My Uncle’s Kitchen
by Lisa Creech Bledsoe
Carrying in the last tomato of the year, Black Cherokee, smoky
and shining, I think: My great-grandmother used to grow these, too.
I love that my uncle’s kitchen has four front doors
all open to the drowsy Kentucky river. It smells like
basil, wood ash, and castile soap in here, like home.
Looking for a knife, I open a likely drawer, but find only keys,
washers, and drill bits. One more drawer then: zip ties,
paracord, paint stirrers. Nearby is the pint jar of honey
I brought as a gift, white soft comb adrift in amber.
A colander’s in the sill, filled with drying beans: Red Eye, Big John,
and Betsy Best Greasy, named for a friend of the family when they—
the beans, that is—were found in her freezer thirty-five years after she died.
All saved, passed down. Two bone saws for cleaning deer
hang beside the sink; both have the word CREECH written
on the wooden grip in my father’s and grandfather’s careful hand.
My uncle told me that my father’s felt hat—on the peg nearby—was
too big for Dad, just right for a younger brother. When I first saw it
he also showed me a handmade gritting board made in 1975, perfect
for late milk stage corn, best cornmeal ever. My father’s name is penciled
on that too, along with my grandfather’s. I am enfolded in light and
reflection. The corn mill clamped on one of six wood tables in here
is not used much. Uncle Mark said grain has to be ground three or
four times in it. If you only do it once though it’s fine for chickens.
Mostly our family gets cornmeal from cousins Hoss and Coke
who use the grinder the family bought in 1915—strapped it to a Model T
pickup tire with a leather belt about fifteen feet long. The truck’s
long busted; now my cousins rig the grinder (new stones, cleaned bearings,
even gold lettering restored at the factory where it was originally built)
for meal and a fair bit of drinking makes it a party. Sometimes
with incidents. I still can’t find a knife in my uncle’s kitchen
but there are eight different antique wooden chairs in here,
one made from willow by the Romani gypsies who camped
in my great-grandmother’s holler and gave her a set for letting them
stay there each year. I open an apothecary cabinet in a spill
of sun pouring down from the cupola. Drawers marked hooks, lag screws,
and “soprglo”—superglue—in my uncle’s son’s hand from when he was three.
No kitchen utensils. A jar of marbles, the ticking wood stove, paintings
by my uncle Mike: daffodils, a sycamore, one with the words “Blue Moon
of Kentucky.” I count thirty quarts of heirloom tomatoes, jars of grits, oats,
dried apples, and turnip seeds; dozens of arrowheads and a stone axe.
A duffel bag that looks like my father’s. Likely is. And finally
a knife. But nowhere a fork. I smile and slice the last Black Cherokee
of the year carefully in my hands over the sink and eat it
with my fingers, washed, wrapt in home and October sun.
Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the mountains of western North Carolina. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and the author of Appalachian Ground (2019) and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out in Sky Island Journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Red Fez, and River Heron Review, among others. She writes at AppalachianGround.com.