so you have enough breath to keep from
drowning. limbs to swim, teach treading,
wailing below water, to swallow sea if urgent.
mark mississippi, ohio & hudson too, birth
seagulls on the grand concourse, any thing
extraordinary for mapping, direction, familiar.
for the sake of living things. you should know
how to grow tails & wings & triple tongues, teeth
& extra legs for outrunning, leap, for escape.
if you have to be dragon, so be it. cyclops too
& loch ness, big foot’s female counterpart, part
mermaid, lobster girl, medusa, fantasy, fiction
child. if you have to morph magic—i hope 
i’ve taught you well—and how. 






For the way they stick to all 24 of my ribs, coat & dramatic hold—my god—
I love grits & their salt when I’m done dressing their simple bodies, harmony 
Hominy & song  For the hot mill & milk & warm they make me

& Chicago Sunday morning w/ garlic & cheese & frozen coke cola that Kelly makes
for Parneshia, baby Naomi & me—in her adopted city before Parneshia
flies me to sky—all morning we are gratify & sate

& Waffle Houses from Lexington, Kentucky to Gulfport, Mississippi, where they
lay slices of American cheese over like prayers, small hell yeses in our bowls—
fried egg sandwiches w/ pickles & coffee, but lord it’s the grits, always—

& Magnolias uptown in Charleston w/ David—grits w/ spicy shrimp, sausage
& tasso gravy, we are douse & want—in love & its taste is country & cloy—
all shellfish & corn, all ground & earth

& Clover Grill grits & yolk, buttered biscuits w/ gravy & pork chops, while the grill
sizzles sexy like & we all smell of stale Abita & smoke & the Soul Rebels still revolve
& it’s 3am in the Quarter & we all, all of us feel home

& this morning  All the silence of a Sunday  hot water, ¼ cup meal, cheese, salt,
milk & coffee & this poem & New York can feel South, can make the distance feel 
full still & not as bitter as it sometimes—is 



"My poem 'Grits' is about family & love of place & culture & people. It is an ode to time spent in the South with all the places & folks who made me who I am."

Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer & educator. Her first collection of poems, Crowned, was published in 2010 and her new collection, Hemisphere, is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press in Spring 2015. Ellen is an Affrilachian Poet, Conjwoman & is chair of the poetry department at The DreamYard Project.