My grandmother gave me licorice
as sacrament, a rite of passage
when I was five. She was Kansas Baptist,
no charismatic praiser
subject to froth and ramble
from chancel to pew—for her,
a trace of licorice on the palate
was spiritual as singing
all verses of “Rock of Ages.”
The anise stalks she grew next to the sunflowers
back of her Wichita clapboard
were surety of God’s munificence.
“It’ll clean you out, child,
and it ain’t too sweet.
A little black licorice every day
keeps the Devil’s hounds at bay.”
I believed her then, and now,
no hellhounds on my trail,
the Lord with me, and Sen-Sen
sufficient unto days of brimstone smoke,
I am assured of the good and the plenty
inside each day, Amen.

Posted with kind permission of the author.

This ode was among more than 100 responses to our invitation to write an ode to an “ordinary thing.” We share it here with delight and gratitude.