About this Poem 

“‘Congregation’ is gospel, litany, and ode to the places and people of way back when. It is a personal revival of memory and a poetic keepsake of family, ancestors, and home.”
—Parneshia Jones

Congregation

Parneshia Jones

Weir, Mississippi, 1984

Sara Ross,
Great and Grand-mother of all
rooted things waits on the family porch.
We make our way back to her beginnings.

Six daughters gather space and time
in a small kitchen.
Recipes as old as the cauldron
and aprons wrap around these daughters;
keepers of cast iron and collective

Lard sizzles a sermon from the stove,
frying uncle’s morning catch
into gold-plated, cornmeal catfish.
Biscuits bigger than a grown man’s fist
center the Chantilly laced table of yams,
black eyed peas over rice and pineapple,
pointing upside down cake.

The fields, soaked with breeze and sun,
move across my legs like Sara’s hands.
Chartreuse colored waters, hide and seek
in watermelon patches, dim my ache for Chicago.

Peach and pear ornaments
hang from Sara’s trees. Jelly jars tinted
with homemade whiskey,
guitar stringing uncles who never left
the porch, still dream of being famous
country singers.

Toothpick, tipped hats and sunset
linger as four generations come from
four corners to eat, pray, fuss and laugh
themselves into stories of a kinfolk,
at a country soiree, down in the delta.

Copyright @ 2014 by Parneshia Jones. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on August 22, 2014.

Copyright @ 2014 by Parneshia Jones. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on August 22, 2014.

Parneshia Jones

Parneshia Jones is the author of the forthcoming collection, Vessel: Poems (Milkweed Editions, 2015). She is the Sales and Subsidiary Rights Manager and Poetry Editor for Northwestern University Press and lives in Evanston, IL.