This in Remembrance

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

Something was always on the stove. We talked
until a lid began to dance, and again
when she came back from stirring. As we sat,
the baking, simmering essence of the food
she had left behind lay all around and was not
itself only but also she, or so
it seems to me: the lustrous ham in the oven,
the moist brown cornbread, and the latticed pone
she made in her last cooking days with straplets
of sweet potato interlaced like fingers,
giving off candy heat and orange-peel spice.
I should be ashamed, I suppose, calling her image
up in a cloud of those warm smells. She had
auras not of the kitchen. Mostly, they
gave back, like planets’ rings. A cardinal
once, in a dewy rosebush out the window
of the breakfast nook, flame-red, when I was seven,
set all her form alight, and, “Oh, come look,”
she whispered. With electric force, but dark,
quiet, and, as the causes varied, ironic,
sad, gratified, or wellingly empathic,
her being answered a good line, death news,
word that a grandson had all A’s: she glowed
like dormant coals to her world’s exhalations.
The red could also cool. Something I said,
damned heartless kid, drove her for three days back
into her sore concavities, the pain
drawn gray around her oval face. Always
it was her people: they controlled. When she
was long past talking, long past seeming to hear,
we waved goodbye after a visit, and
her eyes, from her barred bed, lit up with tears.
Still, my enduring image of her has her
sitting with all of us beside the fireplace
as, from the kitchen, warmth that sums her up
floats all around, enters our lungs, our bloodstream.
Food is what wafts her over the wordless years.

Donald Mace Williams

Donald Mace Williams is a retired newspaper writer and editor with a doctorate in Beowulfian prosody. He is 93 and lives alone and independently in the Texas Panhandle.

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