My Cart 


Ode to Barbecue
Barbara Hamby


We are lost again in the middle of redneck nowhere, 
which is a hundred times scarier 
than any other nowhere because everyone has guns. 
Let me emphasize that plural—rifles, 
double-barreled shotguns, .22 semi-automatics, 
12-gauge pumps, .357 magnums. And for what? 
Barbecue. A friend of a friend's student's cousin's 
aunt's husband was a cook in the army 
for 30 years, and he has retired to rural Georgia 
with the sole aim in his artistic soul of creating 
the best barbecued ribs in the universe and, according 
to rumor, he has succeeded, which is not surprising 
because this is a part of the world where the artistic soul 
rises up like a phoenix from the pit of rattlesnake 
churches and born-again retribution, where Charlie Lucas 
the Tin Man creates dinosaurs, colossi of rusted 
steel bands and garbage can mamas with radiator torsos, 
electric-coil hearts, fingers of screws. Here W.C. Rice's 
Cross Garden grows out of the southern red clay with rusted 
Buicks shouting, "The Devil Will Put Your Soul 
in Hell Burn it Forever" and "No Water in Hell," and I think 
of Chet Baker singing "Let's Get Lost," and I know 
what he means, because more and more I know 
where I am, and I don't like the feeling, 
and Chet knew about Hell and maybe about being saved, 
something much talked about in the deep South, 
being saved and being lost because we are all sinners, 
amen, we bear Adam's stain, and the only way
to heaven is to be washed in the blood of the Lamb, 
which is kind of what happens when out of the South 
Georgia woods we see a little shack with smoke 
pouring from the chimney though it's August 
and steamier than a mild day in Hell; we sit at a picnic table 
and a broad bellied man sets down plates of ribs,
a small mountain of red meat, so different from Paris 
where for my birthday my husband took me 
to an elegant place where we ate tiny ribs washed down 
ith a sublime St.-Josèphe. Oh, don't get me wrong, 
they were good, but the whole time I was out of sorts, 
squirming on my perfect chair, disgruntled, 
because I wanted to be at Tiny Register's, Kojack's, 
J.B.'s, I wanted ribs all right but big juicy ribs dripping 
with sauce, the secret recipe handed down from grandmother 
to father to son, sauce that could take the paint off a Buick, 
a hot, sin-lacerating concoction of tomatoes, jalapeños 
and sugar, washed down with iced tea, Coca-Cola, beer, 
because there's no water in Hell, and Hell is hot, oh yeah.

From  Babel (University of Pittsburgh Press).
Used with the author's permission.

Barbara Hamby was born in New Orleans and raised in Hawaii. Author of eight books of poetry, she now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where she is a Distinguished University Scholar and professor at Florida State University. Winner of a 2010 Guggenheim poetry fellowship, Barbara discovered a passion for words early on; her love for them is obvious in the razor-sharp wit and rapid-fire alliteration which so often defines her poetry. To learn more about her, visit



Post New Comment:
There are no comments for this poem yet.

Contents of this web site and all original text and images therein are copyright © by Your Daily Poem. All rights reserved.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Purchasing books through any poet's Amazon links helps to support Your Daily Poem.
The material on this site may not be copied, reproduced, downloaded, distributed, transmitted, stored, altered, adapted,
or otherwise used in any way without the express written permission of the owner.