“Chicago-Style Italian Beef,” from Vessel by Parneshia Jones


[From the WVFC Poetry Archive. First Published October 6, 2019.]


Chicago-Model Italian Beef

 Would you like it dry, moist, or dipped…candy or scorching?

Make a journey to Planet South Facet.
Stockyards of outdated world ciao and arrivederci,
turn-of-the-century Italians
unpack rolling pins and meat sauce
and the household secret—sotto aceti;
made beneath the Pope’s Sunday blessings
and stone wall kitchens of rosaries and picket spoons.

That secret sotto aceti, carried in glass jars,
in silk-lined suitcases throughout the ocean,
settled into garlic-scented kitchenettes,
nestled in neighborhoods hidden
within the south and west crevasses
of a big-shouldered metropolis.

Large-hipped beef
spiced with Mama Francesca’s pepper flakes,
or Mama Louisa’s garlic combine, gradual roasting,
don’t rush it, you may have time,
go make love,
perform a vendetta,
pour the spumante,
write to those nonetheless strolling the Colosseum streets
and inform them of this younger nation,
just a few hundred years outdated,
this midwestern place of wind, large lake, and white lighting.
Inform them that is dwelling now.

Razor the meat into whispers,
cascading right into a baptism of its personal broth.
Get the Italian roll drunk in au jus, pile it with beef
till the moist seams begin to give manner.

Now the sotto aceti, ahh the sotto aceti,
we’ll nickname it giardiniera—
this opera of peppers and pimento,
carrots, cauliflower, celery, and olives,
all bathing in oils and vinegars.
Let it drizzle over, down,
in-between the meat, decelerate,
don’t rush,
go make love some extra,
drink extra wine,
sit in your newly adopted stoop,
watch Chicago play its bluesy life,
miss the cobble streets of Rome,
let the giardiniera oil run down your arm,

That is dwelling now. You made it so.
Eat and be near God.


From Vessel by Parneshia Jones (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Parneshia Jones. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions.


Parneshia Jones is the creator of Vessel: Poems (Milkweed Editions), winner of the Midwest Ebook Award. Jones has been honored with the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Margaret Walker Quick Story Award, and the Aquarius Press Legacy Award. She was named one of many “25 Writers to Watch” by the Guild Complicated and one among “Lit 50: Who Actually Books in Chicago” by Newcity Journal, and her work has been anthologized and featured on PBS Newshour, the Academy of American Poets, and espnW. A member of the Affrilachian Poets, Jones is the Editorial Director for Commerce and Engagement at Northwestern College Press.


Poet’s Notice

“Chicago Model Italian Beef” is an ode to Chicago and Rome, two of my favourite cities on the planet. It was my first time in Rome after I began to consider how issues journey—meals, recipes, cultures, and histories, and the way we undertake them to our new environment and houses. I noticed a lot of Chicago in Rome. I noticed how we make our houses, even when we’re far-off from dwelling, in locations that use  meals to convey us collectively, that enable to hold and rejoice our histories and residential all over the place we go.


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