Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Eight Loaves by Karen Keith Gibson

This Poetry Tuesday I am thinking about my mother-in-law. She has been visiting from Germany for the last two weeks and I have thoroughly enjoyed having her around. We have had our ups and downs as many mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law do. But, I am so grateful for the good woman she is, for the nurturing and love and work she put into her seven delicious children. They are some of the best people I know. And now, having been a mother for a number of years, I am understanding a little bit of the huge task it is to raise good children. I am endlessly grateful for her.
We were talking at our women's retreat about how she used to make bread and feed it to her children after school as they came home. She said they went through at least two loaves each day.
I immediately thought of a poem written by one of my friends and favorite poets, Karen Keith Gibson. This comes from a book called "
Bread and Milk and Music: Three Sisters' Voices" which was written by Karen and her two sisters, Helen Keith Beaman and Mary Keith Boyack. It is an absolutely sublime book. If you'd like to buy a copy, let me know and I can get one for you.
Eight Loaves

I imagine I can smell it when I reach
the vacant lot, float on the aroma
down the path, past Strong's,
through the back door, into the kitchen.
Mother cuts the coveted heel,
spreads it Grandma Knighton style:
scrape off more than you put on.
Then, ceremoniously, she places
the prize in my hands.

No one can duplicate the bread.
I know why. One morning as the ritual began,
I meticulously took notes,
watched every move, counted the stirs,
clicked a mental picture to pattern.
she added leftover mush,
mixed it with the other ingredients
as though it belonged.

She kneaded like a champion boxer
taking on his punching bag
with perfect rhythm, well-trained arms.
Baking was the clincher:
coal stove, blackened pans.

I miss the bread.
I miss the constancy of it,
its goodness, its healing power.

How could she have known as she
went about her mundane chore
what it would mean to us,
her eight loaves of delicious children,
stirred, kneaded and baked, who
live the legacy of Mama's bread.

Karen Keith Gibson
from Bread and Milk and Music: Three Sisters' Voices

1 comment:

Trishelle said...

There is something that speaks to my child-self about this poem. Perhaps it's being able to relate to the way this poet's mother showed her love for her. Thank you for sharing. It brought tears to my eyes and made me happy.