My mother inspired a poem that I wrote. Actually, she has inspired a number of poems I’ve written, either directly or indirectly. Come to think about it, she’s actually inspired everything I’ve written, indeed all my writing comes from her.
Because I do.
She is not a writer herself, my Mom. Instead, she’s a soprano, (an operatic leading lady), a vocal coach, a former member (for 16 years) of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and an international lecturer on the arts, specifically where lyrics and music intersect.
(You’re right: I grew up hearing The Three Tenors from the kitchen radio. And hiding my Three Dog Night LP albums under my bed.)
Besides being a gifted musician and stage performer, my Mom is also a skilled driver. She shuttled four children to ballet-piano-cello-viloin-viola lessons. In between, she ran for a local political office, taught elementary school, quilted, did calligraphy, was artistic director for a number of operas, weeded our flower beds, battled a career-shortening and life-threatening case of scoliosis, cared for her aging mother-in-law until that grandmother of mine passed away, and she bottled fruit. Some of it she even grew in our own backyard.
Sadly, I didn’t inherit any of her goods, I don’t think. Except, maybe, a fraction of her musicianship. I did, though, inherit her insatiable love for words.
But I don’t know the first thing about bottling fruit.
Every year on my birthday, I like to thank my parents for giving me the gift of life and other gifts that make that life rich and satisfying. I did just this a couple of years ago by writing a poem dedicated to my Mom, Donna, and the next year that piece ended up anthologized in a noteworthy volume entitled, Fire in the Pasture: 21st Century Mormon Poets.
So this year I am posting that piece here to thank her — thank them, Mom and Dad — for showing how to harvest, savor, and bottle life.
For Donna Charlene Glazier Dalton
(and T.S. Eliot and Langston Hughes )
There are museums alive under my mother’s house, quiet
life-giving mausoleums, loden and loaded with their chilled secrets,
cement-walled vaults with jugs of holy jewels,
amber pendants round as halos lining the walls.
Crystal caskets crowded with dense-fleshed
Cheek-to-topaz-cheek they nearly breathe
in their neat ranks, awaiting orders.
No withered raisins in the sun here, no, but
muscled suns afire in blackness: promising,
still half alive,
Let us go then, you and I, to visit those cellars
of all my mothers and their mothers and mothers,
who considered shelf life over self life, who
frankly shelved their life to bear and bind themselves with
that fleshy, sinewy fruit of the womb.
Let us see them at the kitchen sink which heaves with sultry harvest,
let us watch them ply their mothers’ genes, cradling fruit
like a bronze planet in each palm, slicing its dense flesh at equator,
making two hemispheres with silk-slick skin
taut against engorged roundness.
Plump little breasts.
These, they slip two-and-two down the throats of jars
until they cannot fit a single other,
and baptize them en masse:
a ladle of sweet, pectiny waters.
In such rooms the women come and go, talking of Mason jars, Ball and Kerr
and none dares eat a peach. But to satisfy her hunger, postpones it,
puts up for the eventual quelling of a someday craving,
saves, replants the pit, stocks this immediate abundance,
preserving it, holding on to life.
Man, with his wristwatch, might claim there will be time,
there will be time, indeed there will be time
for all the works and days of hands, time to know and gather enough
the tender seasonal berries of our fragile human yield.
But the mothers are unconvinced.
They weep and fast and weep and pray
against the measured minutes left together
while all the late afternoon long they hear the voices dying and the
music from a farther room.
Gone too soon from their slippery hold, these dazzling passion fruits
with their every pungent plushness and immediate délice,
these pears with their translucent skin the color of liquid bone
and veins of laced filigree.
Firmest fruit like buffed and bottled riverstones: these are their proving rocks
touchstone testaments of existence,
their innermost fruits
which fill deepest chambers against the time
when they might nourish—or might outlive—the mothers.
© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.