Vow: each day a poem until the month runs out. This one was languishing in a folder with many other false starts. I am rediscovering and completing poems begun but abandoned for some reason. It is a form of recycling, I suppose. Waste nothing.
I don’t can. Have never as an adult canned. Too many bad childhood memories. Throughout my childhood, summer was a marathon of preservation. (To my dad’s way of thinking dinner wasn’t dinner without a little dish of peaches or pears.)
Mom would buy boxes of fruit we didn’t grow – peaches and pears mostly – but we had our own apple orchard – Kings, crab apples, graventein, and yellow transparent, from which Mom canned applesauce, cider, apple butter, and pickled crab apples. She also canned tomatoes, pickles, peas and beans – as well as making vats of jams and jellies. Endless drudgery. I never understood blowing the entire summer providing for winter. People who romanticize farming didn’t grow up on a farm.
Fresh off the truck from Yakima,
they arrive – flat brown boxes of velvet Clings
yellow and pink as mountain mornings,
days on end, weeks even, steaming
the kitchen days on end – Mom bending
over the water bath, gleaming Mason jars,
a snowy dishtowel tied around her waist
like a sarong, sweat rolling down her neck
days on end – golden rings like pirate’s booty
piled on the white enamel table –
she pushes wisps of hair out of her eyes
with the back of her wrist, screws the jar
lid tight – morning until night, days on end
blanching the skins off, paring slick
globes in half, pulling wrinkled pits
from red centers until her fingertips
are old and the last peach slides
round side up into the last jar until
at last the season ends and memories begin.