--for Mom

Do you remember when we used your swim hat for a bucket,
and coming back from the Fairfield beach I thought
its straps might break under the weight of all those steamers
we’d dug out of their spurt trails in the sand.
Buttered, they went down our throats like the sea.

Or summers at home, the corn ripe faster
than we could eat it on the cob or in puddings
or pancakes, you froze pints and pints, parboiling
the ears, cutting down their lengths with the sharp end,
then taking the flat of the blade to press out the rest.

So many gatherings, so many gatherings, that now,
remembering the steambath of a summer kitchen
the ache of back bent over bean rows, you’re suddenly
shocked to find the endlessness has ended.
So let’s turn your kitchen into a museum.

No need to put up another seven quarts’ worth
of tomatoes or fill the freezer and basement shelves
with jars and freezer boxes of beans and squash
and peaches–the whole porch swarming with fruit flies,
33 two-peck baskets to give away. And, one year,

134 pints of blueberries: pies and cobblers or just
tossed on cereal almost every morning. Such luxury–
for us. So take your permanent sabbatical, know
you’ve more than earned your Ph.D. in the art
of feeding the next generation: twenty years at least

Of post-docs, your biochemistry degree converted
into the art of nutrition twenty years before Gary Null
or the Atkinson diet. Now, if the memory for paring
peppers has left your fingers, think of it as a blessing,
and gather yourself instead, or let yourself be gathered.

Open your fingers that have pared, peeled, chopped,
washed, mashed, seeded, sprayed. Open them like petals
on the November rose that blooms outside my window,
pink as June and sweeter for all the cold to come.
We’ll remember all you have gathered and given.