Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tracing the Barbecue Line

Tracing the Barbecue Line

There is a line


Never scribed to yellowed parchment

By some dusty cartographer

Nor emblazoned in color

On the glossy pages of a tony

Travel guide

But real in the minds of those artists who paint

On a canvas of meat and bone

For want of a better name, I think of it as

The Barbecue Line

Its western origins somewhat obscure,

It tumbles across the sere Texas scrublands

Roughly following the line of Secession

Climbing the Ozarks, crossing the Mississippi

To gallop over verdant pastures of Kentucky blue

Ford icy Appalachian streams and kiss the sea

In the tangled salt marshes of the Virginia Tidewater

South of this line, aficionados will eagerly

Engage in passionate alcohol-fueled debate

Over the merits of their favorites

Tangy Texas Beef brisket versus Carolina pulled pork

Ignoring the opinions of the animals each fully committed to either


The superior sauce surely spicy mild or sweet

Corn bread or white?

Are paper plates a requirement or will plastic suffice?

In the deeper south Brunswick stew is considered an essential

Accompaniment to the feast but no one can agree

On the proper mix of ingredients or consistency

And frankly there is some debate about whether

It came from Brunswick in the first place
(although there is an annual festival in Brunswick, Georgia)

In fact, barbecue lovers can’t agree on much of anything


South of the Line Barbecue is clearly understood to be a noun

Yankees think it is a verb


Jim Carson is an Architect living in Atlanta with his wife, daughter and Snickers the wonder dog. His work has been published in numerous journals and includes poems published at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Southern Fried Weirdness, The Foliate Oak, Clapboard House and Pocket Change (of which he has received little for his work). He can be reached at