The Gospel of Prudence
In the whirlwind days, mother whipped up
batches of white bread laid out like fat, golden
babies nestled among the flour bags and yeast
scummed bowls crowding the kitchen counter.
Spiraling into her soup: Kennebec potatoes,
salt pork, cream skimmed from the metal milk
pail, fluorescent flecks of parsley yanked
from the old herb garden near the back door.
Mother was a mystery to the pragmatists
in the family. Her kitchen forever cluttered,
scattered with yellow cake hot from the oven,
a sink full of gutted bullheads waiting for supper.
The aunts preached the gospel of prudence
drying dishes still hot from the rinse.
Measured steps from the dining room table
to sink, tinkled chatter mid the china.
Grandfather’s sparse words at the table fell
headlong in the open space left by mom.
Rules we didn’t understand. Don’t drink
during a meal, only before or after.
Chew slowly, twenty times between bites.
Pause before you speak. The awkward ebb
between stilted words and silence softened
by Granny’s steady hand serving peas.
Weeks later, mom returned from Robert Packer.
She showed us quietly what she had done,
waiting for us to come and bring her home:
God’s eyes, colored yarn around popsicle sticks.
Woven potholders from a plastic loom, sun catchers.
We hung them at the dirty windows, cautiously
laid them on the piled countertops while
starting the meat in the frying pan for supper.
About the author:
Ellen Stone teaches at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poems have appeared in Dunes Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, and in the anthology, Uncommon Core published by Red Beard Press. Ellen's chapbook, The Solid Living World was published by Michigan Writer's Cooperative Press in 2013.