by Michael McFee

Concentrated manuscripts
copied out at kitchen tables after good meals
and proofed for quantity and degree,

they were handed down
from grandmother to mother to daughter,
from sister to sister, from friend to hungry friend,

pages from the never-finished history of appetite
written in a range of styles
but always in the familiar imperative.

The best ones were stained with their own ingredients.
You could find them in cookbooks or boxes
or (as with my mother) in a drawer

stuffed full as a Thanksgiving turkey
with index cards, sheets from notepads and notebooks,
whatever paper was available

blue with her impatient arthritic curve —
flavors I still remember
when I find her favorite recipes in an old envelope.

They are receipts for some unaccountable hunger.
They are prescriptions that might yet cure.
They are something given, and received:

take, eat.

Michael McFee has published five collections of poetry — Plain Air, Vanishing Acts, Sad Girl Sitting on a Running Board, Colander, and Earthly — and has a sixth forthcoming. He has also published two anthologies, The Language They Speak Is Things To Eat: Poems by Fifteen Contemporary North Carolina Poets (UNC Press, 1994) and This is Where We Live: New North Carolina Short Stories (UNC Press 2000). He has also collaborated with photographer Elizabeth Matheson on To See (North Carolina Wesleyan College Press, 1991). He currently teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill.

From Colander (1996, Carnegie Mellon University Press), © 1996 Michael McFee. Used by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.