SELF-PORTRAIT WITH THE SMITHFIELD HAM
WE HAD TO CUT ON THE BAND SAW
Mother, for once, it wasn’t your fault.
You always said you can’t soak hams
long enough and one full day and night
seemed adequate, but we gave it two,
scrubbed mold, rind, salt away, changed
the water, tucked it like a baby in its bath,
another day, rinsed, patted dry, made ready.
Butter and brown sugar coated all our hands.
Let’s face it; it was ancient, not just aged.
The woman at the ham shack must have seen
my husband’s Pennsylvania plates and figured
what the hell, he won’t be coming back.
Or it was just bad luck. But wasn’t
our discussion on life with Lewis and Clark
educational for the children? Ham jerky!
Ham shoelaces! Ham-flavored chewing gum
to last a winter portage through the Bitteroots!
We were jolly then, those spots undiscovered
on your lungs. Yes, my Yankee husband cut it
on the band saw but so would any man faced
with that ham who had a power tool in reach.
That was Easter. November now. You’re dead.
I’m making black bean soup, beginning
with a frozen cut of that disaster sizzling
in a taste of olive oil. No other seasoning
is needed for this winter’s portage,
just my store of crosscut sections: meat
and marrow, brown sugar, grease and bone.