Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Salt and Pepper

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Today, Sheila Gray Jordan of Chebeague Island uses the two most common seasonings of the dinner table to create a family portrait.

Salt and Pepper by Sheila Gray Jordan

After grace, his next words
would be, ?Pass
the salt and pepper,?
never the one without the other,
though a guest at his table,
a stranger to this courtesy, might ask
for salt or pepper.
And we would pass them both.
The Morton Salt walked
its girl with her umbrella
through the rain in the kitchen,
under her arm a box
pouring salt: when it rains
it pours?a negligence
or lesson, I could not be sure.
Mother measured a pinch
in the palm of her hand.
Still he lifted the wide-holed shaker,
salting the salty dinner,
not adding pepper. ?Unhealthy,?
she warned.
At the funeral, she places a rose.
We cup our handfuls of dirt.
It falls on his coffin
like too much pepper.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1995 Sheila Jordan. Reprinted from The China in the Sea, Signal Books, 1995, by permission of Sheila Jordan. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.