I Love You More Than Popcorn
There’s a pearly translucence to the kernels of corn,
whose hulls hold a hardened starch, which catch the
glints of kitchen light. Shimmers in hot bacon grease
remain hidden when the lid of a cast iron kettle-pan
shuts tight. But the glint in your grandfather’s eyes
will linger there, for a while, in that prolonged light
of your memory. Pangs. From inside
the endosperm, superheated steam pings the popped
corn against the metal cover, it triggers your agitation
of the pan—a methodical turning of the handle
driving metal fins shaped like boat propeller blades
to scrape kernels off the bottom of the gas-fired pot
keeping them from scorching while lifting up
the foamed white puffs of starch. You anticipate
the taste, the crunch, and you carefully control these
explosions just like your grandfather taught you.
No wonder you love popcorn so much,
he was the only one who understood
your desperate hunger, your craving
for the kind words your mother never knew
how to speak to you when you were five,
and even now, often burnt and bitter.
You’d think that your mother’s popcorn pan,
fitted with a pressure relief valve, would make
great popcorn, but she shuffled the round-bottom
pot over electric burners too hard too long
and wore the metal thin. It was always low yield.
After you learned how in first grade, you wrote
a letter to your grandfather with large printed words
puffed-up, saying that if you took the bus to his house,
you hoped that he would pick you up and let you live
with him. He kept your letter in his wallet, together
with his smiles for years. Maybe it was his popcorn.
Only your grandfather’s popcorn, and maybe even
mine with a hint of sea salt and butter on my lips
pressed to yours, can satisfy. You said you love me
more than popcorn… I took your hand and kissed it,
then said the kindest words that I could think of,
Let’s go to the movies… And you understood.
John C. Mannone
John C. Mannone has work in Artemis, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene's Fountain, and others. He’s a Jean Ritchie Fellowship winner in Appalachian literature (2017) and served as Celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He has three poetry collections, including Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing) forthcoming in 2018. He’s been nominated for Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s a professor of physics near Knoxville, TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com
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