The Allens always ate outside. Forget
kitchen, dining room, have a seat
on the porch, listen to the crack
of wood as you find your space,
meditate on a forkful of something hot
& homemade. What good
is a table, square
of silence, meeting of worn faces,
after a day’s pull & sweat?
Lawn chairs & steps
are your longing, June’s humid kiss
against your cheek, a smile
& wave from your neighbor
as you balance a plate in your lap,
relish ceremony, return
third shift pays more, overtime
is hard to come by, the fear
of falling short. Your eyes are filled
with familiar hands, lifelines
with the same forks, calluses
you could own.
—Mitchell L.H. Douglas (Marion County)
This poem is from \blak\ \al-fə bet\ (Persea Books, 2013).
Mitchell L. H. Douglas is the author of \blak\ \al-fə bet\ (Persea Books, 2013), winner of the 2011 Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award, and Cooling Board: A Long-Playing Poem (2009 Red Hen Press), nominated for an NAACP Image Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in 2010. A founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, Cave Canem graduate fellow, and Poetry Editor for PLUCK!: The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, he is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Poetry Prompt: A Family Tradition
Create a poem describing a family tradition. This tradition might be one your family still continues or one that exists only in memory. It could be a ritual you have observed in another family—perhaps a custom you wish your own family observed. The tradition might be something a family does in the car, at the supper table, during a holiday, or when they have spare time.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.