Rosalie Sanara Petrouske: “Eating Corn Soup under the Strawberry Moon”
2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize Finalist
I really dug the step by step precise writing, the repetition in the middle, the sure steady rhythm of “Eating Corn Soup under the Strawberry Moon.” I could taste and smell the poem. At the close, the poem left me with a sense of peace and power.
— Tony Gloeggler
Eating Corn Soup under the Strawberry Moon
(Beaver Island, Michigan, June 2019)
At the community center, they serve bowls
of Indian corn soup, fry bread and whitefish, lightly
sautéed to a perfect golden brown.
The Ojibwe woman behind the table wears jeans and t-shirt,
a traditional medicine bag tied around her neck,
long gray hair pulled back in a thick braid.
She tells me great-great-great grandmothers
handed down this recipe
to mothers, to sisters, to her.
Grandmothers born, she said, before even cameras existed.
She notes the camera strapped around my neck.
It takes three days to make, she tells me,
the corn is soaked and cooked in hardwood ashes.
I picture her sifting the ashes,
while water heats in a cast-iron pot,
using her sturdy thumb to push kernels
up and off the cob—then stirring, stirring, stirring,
waiting, waiting, waiting for just the right consistency,
tasting and then tasting again.
She talks for a long time, until the next person steps in line.
Smiling, I thank her, know she is not giving away any secrets.
I take my bowl, plate with fry bread and fish
back to the communal table beneath the stars,
drop a ten-dollar bill in the donation jar.
At the first spoonful, my mouth explodes with flavor—
smoke, ashes, salt, unnamed spices, mandaamin —
both tang and sweetness, such savory delights.
Slowly, I let each bite slide down my throat,
finish my bowl and go back for another,
then one more, drop more money into the jar.
Later, will be drums, sacred tobacco
offered to the night sky, along with a prayer—
I join many voices, my belly filled with soup.
and feel no hunger tonight.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rosalie Sanara Petrouske is the author of What We Keep (Finishing Line Press, 2016), A Postcard from my Mother (Finishing Line Press, 2004), and The Geisha Box (March Street Press, 1996). Petrouske’s poems and essays have appeared in many literary journals, including Passages North, Red Rock Review, Rhino, The MacGuffin, Southern Poetry Review, Third Wednesday, Sky Island Journal and Lunch Ticket, among others. Her poetry was also included in an anthology from MSU Press, 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917–2017. Recently, she had two essays published by Silver Birch Press in their LANDMARKS and PRIME MOVERS Series. In any season, you can find her walking at Lincoln Brick Park or along the Grand River jotting lines for poems in her notebook or snapping photographs. In 2019, her photographs were featured in Still Point Arts Quarterly and Snapdragon: a Journal of Art and Healing. Images of the natural world are prominent throughout her work as she stays true to the teachings of her Ojibwe father, who taught her how to provide careful stewardship and to always honor her surrounding environment, whether a woodland or urban landscape. Find Rosalie’s books on Amazon and at Finishing Line Press.