Salt and Pepper

By Sheila Gray Jordan

After grace, his next words

would be, “Pass

the salt and pepper,”

never the one without the other,

though a guest at his table,

a stranger to this courtesy, might ask

for salt or pepper.

And we would pass them both.

The Morton Salt walked

its girl with her umbrella

through the rain in the kitchen,

under her arm a box

pouring salt: when it rains

it pours – a negligence

or lesson, I could not be sure.

Mother measured a pinch

in the palm of her hand.

Still he lifted the wide-holed shaker,

salting the salty dinner,

not adding pepper. “Unhealthy,”

she warned.

At the funeral, she places a rose.

We cup our handfuls of dirt.

It falls on his coffin

like too much pepper.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1995 Sheila Jordan. Reprinted from “The China in the Sea,” Signal Books, 1995, by permission of Sheila Jordan. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or (207) 228-8263.