Conceived, born, and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin—that’s me, Paul Vincent Bartlett, a (displaced) cheesehead. And not of your typical Wisconsin lineage.
Where I first put my arm around you.
Clad in red coats
and autumn hats,
we walked from the Farmers’ Market,
bags of basil in hand,
then arm in arm.
The dog waited.
When I see sweet potatoes, I often think of Deborah Torraine. Deb
was a community organizer in the Twin Cities. She always referred
to herself as a cultural worker; she was a mentor to new and
emerging artists, and the Director of Community Engagement for
the Saint Paul Almanac.
A few years ago on the Fourth of July we wanted to invite some neighbors over for homemade cinnamon rolls. I make the rolls from scratch; my wife invites.
The first thing I saw when Dad turned our car down Grandma’s street in Merriam Park was the sky-high catalpa tree in her front yard. It was the only “cigar tree” on the block, and when I spied it, I knew we were almost there. It was a beautiful tree, with frilly white flowers in the spring that magically became long, brown seedpods in late summer.
Every holiday, every barbecue, every church social, and Lord knows for every somebody or another’s funeral, the unspoken expectation has always been that my mama makes the sweet potato pies. Calling her pies delicious is an understatement—they are heavenly.
My nails have been black for over a week now. This is the price I pay for picking mulberries, whose juice has a staining power the military might want to look into. Under the guilty tree, a (doomed) white car has been parked for the past nine days, and I know from experience that its hood will never be pure white again: pale pink blooms will adorn its surface, souvenirs of its time beneath that tree.
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