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In Praise of Okra by January Gill O'Neil

In Praise of Okra

by January Gill O'Neil

published in her 2009 book, Underlife (CavanKerry Press)

No one believes in you like I do. I sit you down on the table & they overlook you for fried chicken & grits, crab cakes & hush puppies, black-eyed peas & succotash & sweet potatoes & watermelon.

Your stringy, slippery texture reminds them of the creature from the movie Aliens.

But I tell my friends if they don’t like you they are cheating themselves; you were brought from Africa as seeds, hidden in the ears and hair of slaves.

Nothing was wasted in our kitchens.

We took the unused & the throwaways & made feasts; we taught our children how to survive, adapt.

So I write this poem in praise of okra & the cooks who understood how to make something out of nothing.

Your fibrous skin melts in my mouth— green flecks of flavor, still tough, unbruised, part of the fabric of earth. Soul food.

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