Poetry

Homemaking-for-the Down-at Heart

This is the original, longer version of a poem I wrote recently about my mother. The short version (see link below) was published on the Avbob Poetry website in December 2022.

For most of our lives

words were our weapons

you

the single mother

on the attack

and I

the only daughter

on the defense

a raging battle

between who

can get

the last word in

Now that your life

has almost reached a full stop

you can’t hear me at all

I measure my words carefully

but it’s too late

we continue to misunderstand one another

weighed down with hurt

an absence of logic

we repeat ourselves over and over

enunciating clearly

unable to grasp true meaning

both sides so wrong

when I was young

the only way you knew

how to express emotion

was through the food

you made for me

what amounted to love

very closely resembled caring

we both derived such satisfaction

and deep comfort

from eating together

the surprise of a new discovery

unusual combinations of flavours

sitting at table

was our common ground

a ceasefire

I will never forget

the wonder of what you made

pungent and bold

brimming with bonhomie and good health

spicy green bean bredie with pearled barley

clay baked chicken scented with thyme

an abundance of whole bulbs of roasted garlic

slices of polenta with charred corn and chunky tomato sauce

the most perfect fish and chips I have ever eaten

macaroni cheese light as a soufflé

topped with diced ripe tomatoes

torn basil and your signature garlic & lemon dressing

seeping through a lattice of bubbly cheese

The last time I saw you

you were reading

Homemaking for the Down-at-Heart

which is about a mother

losing her mind

and a daughter

who still has some space to express her love

you had almost reached the end

but not quite

when you stopped being able to cook

pouring brandy over pasta instead of olive oil

the rice inexplicably both cold and burnt

I mourned not only our lost meals

but how we can never

get the good times back again

sweet respite

spun in the ritual of summer

It was such a shock

that your innate practical sensibilities

could ever be undermined

your burgeoning creativity

bubbling over

ever since you were a newly wed

spectacular

perfectly honed

suddenly so lost in a sea of fright and forgetfulness

and now

that cancer

has you in its jaws again

food has become reduced to an obligation

parceled out in the hours between

the bare minimum required

I wish

I could make for you

a slice of sumptuous chicken pie

scented with cloves

thickened with sago

studded with hardboiled eggs

nestled under flaky sour cream pastry

or a green salad bursting with freshness

skeins of silky duck confit and tart cranberries

Everywhere I go

there’s this unceasing hum

of low level anxiety

that keeps breaking through

a dull pain

barely suppressed

This is how my body

is connected to yours

despite all the distances that separate us

all these complicated feelings

a deep dam of guilt

constant heart ache

bursts of frustration

inevitable regret

I shouldn’t be surprised

when you were lying on the operating table

no one ever told me how close to death you were

septicemia spreading like a forest fire

but I knew

This will be my way of homemaking

for the down-at-heart

finding a way to keep on

cooking

eating

living

finding a way to say

that love

however broken

is

somehow

the last word

2 thoughts on “Homemaking-for-the Down-at Heart

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