In Praise of Okra

By / Photography By Carole Topalian | August 03, 2017
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No one believes in you
like I do. I sit you down on the table
& they overlook you for
fried chicken & grits,
crab cakes & hushpuppies,
black-eyed peas & succotash
& sweet potatoes & watermelon.
Your stringy, slippery texture
reminds them of the creature
from the movie Aliens.
But I tell my friends if they don’t like you
they are cheating themselves;
you were brought from Africa
as seeds, hidden in the ears and hair
of slaves.
Nothing was wasted in our kitchens.
We took the unused & the throwaways
& made feasts;
we taught our children how to survive,
So I write this poem
in praise of okra
& the cooks who understood
how to make something out of nothing.
Your fibrous skin
melts in my mouth—
green flecks of flavor,
still tough, unbruised,
part of the fabric of earth.
Soul food.


January Gill O'Neil is a poet and writer living with her family in Beverly, MA. Her first book, titled Underlife, will be published by CavanKerry Press in October 2009.

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