Sean Hill

Uncle John

That was the year
Granddaddy Thomas died
Left the family worse than broke
Uncle John stole a ham
from Mr. Ennis’s Meat Market
He was seventeen
Lost his taste for it
locked up
fourteen years
Ham salt cured and earth-red
sliced with the fat hanging on
yellow sunshine on a white plate
The hambone cut crosswise
rings marrow
a dark eye
All in the skillet
making gravy for grits
Lost the taste for all things salt
The ocean he hasn’t seen
Woman and man
He don’t never want to see
no more ham on his plate
Hates pigs
Was hard for him
Hates white folks too
Time off for good behavior
They didn’t hold him to the last six
He’s a hog farmer
only eats beef and chicken and turkey
fish turtle and rabbit
squirrel possum and coon
and he seasons his greens with smoked oxtails
Can’t raise white folks for slaughter.

Sean Hill
“Uncle John” appears in Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (University of Georgia Press, 2008).