My Mother's Kitchen

was so vast I could ride a tricycle across the blue linoleum floor,
while always on the table, a small wooden radio played news,
soap operas, Les Paul and Mary Ford.

Unafraid of calories, cholesterol or the shapes of bodies,
we had a deep fryer for chicken, onion rings, donuts rolled in cinnamon
that could stain brown paper lunch bags with lovely dark oil,

and a large oven for cake that could rise to such heights that while it baked
we could slam no doors. In my mothers kitchen we waited for my father,
who often traveled, to come home.

One February found him in Chicago and we baked him a valentine cake
iced with mocha cream and studded
with red cinnamon hearts.

When snow kept him away for days we licked icing off the edges,
aching to cut the tip off the heart for tasting but
loving him so we kept it perfect.

In that kitchen, the ceiling was covered with rice,
remnants of the pressure cooker that lost its top.
My mother laughed.

In later kitchens there was not as much space.
We measured the days by my father's heartbeats,
irregular and strained.

The green plastic salt shaker no longer on the table,
we gave the fryer away, ate broiled lean meat,
baked potatoes.

In later kitchens my mother sweetened black coffee with tiny tablets of saccharine,
spread melba toast with cottage cheese,uneasy with a body that softened
and curved and my father's heart, beating strange time.

Friday nights and holidays gave again familiar smells of yeast bread
and soup with golden islands of chicken fat, floating,
but we grew careful,

no longer easy in these kitchens which grew smaller with every move.
Still later kitchens saw broiled fish, steamed vegetables, chicken
with no skin. No matter.

After the funeral we sat around the long dining room table.
The rabbi said we must eat, a sign
that we would go on living.
My mother lives today with a man who cooks for her.
Sometimes we call her for recipes. Last week
after apple picking, we asked about pie.

She remembers everything. How much cinnamon
the apples need, the way
to get a flaky crust.

Ten minutes later she calls again. The real secret, she says,is lots and
lots of sugar.
Pour it all over the bottom of the pan, and in time it will rise.
It will sweeten everything.

Gail Golden

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Copyright ©2003 by Gail Golden