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Shelby Stephenson



You take a passel of recipes; rub with pumice to smooth the finish.
I won’t say your soul will get happy.
I am going to design the pattern with a sprinkle.
How − is legit:  like a canopy celestial!


A party snack’s a cracker of a Ritz,
A rounder-upper, together with a cheese-slice.


I will meet you in the morning for the party.
In a rapture do you know me by my smile?


I’ll slice a cucumber and put one dot of mayonnaise on each penny.
One piece of bacon sends your snack over the top.


Do not doubt my bout with information.
I’m ranging for the soul, its settling boundaries and curves circling the chocolate pie.
I want to drive my John Deere through the door of a hallway
Shaped like a Strawberry Cake.
It’s my job to serve you −


1 box white cake mix
1 box strawberry Jell-O
1 cup strawberries
¾ cup Mazola
4 eggs


Mix Jell-O with cake mix
Add oil & strawberries
Add eggs one at a time and beat well
Bake in oven 350 degrees for 25 minutes


I’m serious:  the only way I will eat Jell-O’s in a strawberry cake.
The women want to feed me Jell-O when I get sick.
Hello!  The commercial’s the best part − J-E-L-L-O.


I like Nellybelle (Dale’s and Roy’s jeep).
Salute!  Bullet!


You drive a little ways, your ice-cream-maker in one seat.


To make 1 gallon of vanilla you’ll need:


3 large cans Pet Milk
5 large eggs (beat well)
2 ¼ cups sugar
2 Tablespoon vanilla
Add enough sweet-milk to fill ice-cream container to within 5 inches of top


Keep turning that crank.
Like the horizon at dusk you will become very light-headed.
The cream will come before you know it.
The fuzz around your lips will lighten up your face.





Mostly she’d barbecue it or fry it.
Occasionally she made a stew.
Rabbit stew’s a given, easier to fix than barbecue.


There’s a rabbit in the photo.
No dog’s in sight.
My father’s holding the cottontail in his hands,
right clinching the hind-legs,
left closing around the bunny’s neck.
The hunter’s grinning for the Polaroid.
I can see clearly the gold glinting in his smile.
He is wearing horn-rims.
Time must be the 70’s, for no dogs moil,
as I say, and absence fills the compactness
the scene holds:  the season’s fall,
the high sedge roils, as my father
would never mow if he could walk
around “The Plantation,” as he called what I call now − Paul’s Hill.


He’s standing behind the old cow and calf stables −
now used for my John Deere 155 mower
and for storage for a mule-drawn guano distributor.
(I have thought of putting together a little small-farm museum.)


His smile’s more of a grin.
The rabbit-box leans vertically against his left leg.
I can see the trap-door of the box he made.
It looks like he clapped a few boards together and tried to hit the nails with a hammer.
I’m surprised he took the worry to make a rabbit-box.
I can hear him say − “I baited that box with a apple core − that’s how I catched him.”


My point − one − is that his gun’s in the rack over his bed.
Slobber Mouth and his thirty-five hounds run races in his head.


His decorations and rapture live in the knowledge that his Maytle −
my mother − will fix that rabbit for the table.


More and more I think of my father as the critic of my writing.
What are you writing, Son?  What is it?  Let me tell you a story:
I have used a briar to twist many a rabbit out of a gum.


I think Mama would fix rabbit the way she would chicken.
Sometimes she’d fry it, rolled up, salted, peppered, floured.


A few times I remember she smothered it with onions.
(Imagine my father skinning and cleaning the rabbit.)
Mama would cut it up into pieces.
She’d dredge it with flour, melt in a skillet about three tablespoons drippings or butter.
She’d sauté the rabbit in the melting drops until brown − then cover all over with sliced onions.


She’d simmer the pan on a stove-eye for about an hour.
That would be one good meal.
My father might say − “It’s good not to have to pick out no shot.”


Just about every line here obtrudes recall.
The titles of books go astray – poof − off into my father’s grin −
and a shot of pure apple brandy whiskey he’d take as the rabbit waits on the table.




I walked to the mailbox down the lane.
A huge possum had just been run over.
I picked it up by the tail and tossed it in the hedge.

I grew up on possum
And we hunted coon
And we ate the possum and the coon.
I’m talking meat − barbecued.

One time in a slit in an oak down below Heck’s Hog Feeding Grounds
I saw my father lift his Fox Sterlingworth Hammerless
Double Barrel 12-gauge
Bringing one barrel down on the coon

And it fell to the ground
And he brought it home,
The tail sticking out of his hunting jacket.

I will tell you that the coon appeared on the table,
The barbecued loins − the whole thing −
Surrounded by round potatoes − Irish potatoes − not the long Idahoes.

And possum, too, my mother barbecued,
That’s what I mean, while my father told the stories,
Noticeably jarring the dogs
Treeing and moiling about in huckleberry clumps.

My fingers clutch the tail to lift the hedge in dew-caught 
November leaves, rooting the animals through
Free shoots within my father’s sighting down the barrel.
Opossum and Raccoon found our table a grand setting.
My mother fixed them as easily as she stirred the collards or sowed a turnip-bed.
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