How’s this for poetic inspiration? At about 3 a.m., when I should have been snoozing contentedly, dreaming stanzas, I was in the back seat of a cab hurtling toward Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles because—
1) I’m in Atlanta, where they fry everything but chairs.
2) I’ve always been fascinated by the pairings—hot, sweet, crunchy, doughy, syrup, Tabasco.
3) I’m at AWP, which seems to have brought out some giddy, reckless muse/scoundrel (I call her Caldonia), who doesn’t surface until I’m away from home and surrounded by 20-year-olds who think a good ol’ hefty helping of potential heart attack at 3 a.m. is “fun.”
4) I think there’s a book somewhere that lists chicken & waffles are a black person’s rite of passage. If you can handle ‘em, you can keep your membership card.
Now it is 10:20 a.m., and I am reminded approximately every 23 seconds of my early morning feast. It was best tiny death I’ve ever consumed. I must write about what is happening to my body.
Or my body will win.

Originally Published: March 3rd, 2007

Patricia Smith has been called “a testament to the power of words to change lives.” She is the author of seven books of poetry, including Incendiary Art (2017), winner of an NAACP Image Award and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (2012), which won the Lenore Marshall...

  1. March 5, 2007

    chicken and waffles as divine inspiration? I love it!!!!

  2. March 5, 2007
     Tara Betts

    Girrrrrl, that was some good fried okra, buckwheat waffles and grits. Eating at 3 a.m. is becoming a rarer experience for me, but it was so, so good. I don't think people understand how much the contrast of heat & sweet is just culinary delight.

  3. March 6, 2007
     Rich Villar

    Those greens flatly refused to play. Chicken and waffles? Anything less would be uncivilized.