A Poem from Diana Amman Cruze

Papa and Uncle Charlie_picmonkeyed

Papa’s Recipe

by Diana Amman Curze

When I was 12

I Saw

Papa, father of my father
On his front porch swing
Waving at life passing by

Grey hair combed, suspenders neat
Each day a clean, white shirt, soon to be
Covered with tobacco spittle

Papa was widowed twice, but kept
An immaculate house, save for spittoons
Spilling juices like unwashed kitchen pots

Papa cooking soup
Papa baking bread
My Papa knew a secret recipe

I Saw

Two uncles dine at Papa’s house
Three old brothers slurping soup
Lips seeping snuff

Uncle Charlie, the Catholic,
taught me to play Canasta
He gave up cards for Lent

Uncle Port, they said was rich,
came to share the beans and cornbread
Two uncles widowed both and childless
Knew nothing of a secret recipe

I Saw

Auntie marching into Papa’s house
To empty his whiskey meant for fruitcake
Auntie tolerated no alcohol since
Papa had gone to take the cure

I Saw

Papa hiding his beer when Auntie came
She found the Heinekens and Falstaff
Auntie allowed no beer for Papa
She did not know of Papa’s recipe

I Saw

Papa creeping to the cellar made of dirt
Clutching RC Cola and paint thinner
Papa with his secret recipe
Papa drinking “Smoke on the Water”

And Papa lived to 95


Diana’s note: My brother and his friends used the term, “Smoke on the Water” when referring to any homemade alcohol mixture or recipe, especially home brew. 

“Smoke on the Water or “home brew” was a label used in Knoxville in the ‘40s and ‘50s.  In Suttree, Cormac McCarthy writes about a man drinking his own mixture of “Smoke on the Water.”

Diana is the author of “A Life in the Day of a Lady Salesman,” a story that chronicles her years of selling products around Appalachia.in the 1960s. Her book is available on Amazon.com and at Union Avenue Books,  unionavebooks.com.

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