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Grease & Salt

By Jeanann Verlee

I finish a small hot plate of grease & salt / & push
the scraped-clean plate across the counter

for someone else to scrub / this, I say I have paid for
but it doesn't fit / I see the hundred hands

it took to cultivate / the hands that milked the cow
(or built the machines that did) / the hands that harvested

the artichokes & spinach & shallots / the hands
that steamed & fried / the hands that mined

the salts (or maintained the machines that did) / the hands
that mixed the clay & the hands that baked them to ceramic

in a kiln / the hands that sliced & spiced the bread /
the hands that rolled fork & knife into napkin /

the scalded hands that pulled the dish from oven /
the hands that passed the plate to the hands that set it

before me / the hands that wring in hopes I have no
complaint & that if I do, I won't take to Yelp

with my grievances / the hands that whisk the emptied
plate from sight / the hands, too, that swipe my card

& the hands that process the accounts between /
the hands that wipe the counter, seats, floor, handles /

the hundred hands that work & ache & crack over this
one tiny indulgence I myself can't rightly afford /

& I remember my father’s hands, & my mother’s / &
too, the hands of the farmers & soldiers & steel

workers & brick layers in my bloodline / & my hands, too,
each scar & chip / each labor for paycheck or fury or love

& I praise & I praise & I praise / the work & the hands /
& I lick the salt from the corners of my oily mouth.

Added: Wednesday, November 23, 2016  /  Used with permission.
Jeanann Verlee
Photo by A. Pavhk.

Jeanann Verlee is author of two books, Said the Manic to the Muse and Racing Hummingbirds, which earned the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in poetry. She has been awarded the Third Coast Poetry Prize and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in failbetter, Adroit, and BuzzFeed, among others. Verlee wears polka dots and kisses Rottweilers. She believes in you. Visit her website.

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