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Dinnertime
by
Gretchen Friel


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My mother  
is poised
at the stove,
one fist
protected with a
well-worn square of cloth
firmly grasping
the handle of a steaming pot,
the other holds a wooden spoon,
ageless, she is
perpetually
stirring
heedless of the weather,
death,
divorce,
holiday,
the price of meat.
She is whipping
potatoes with butter and milk,
frying
sausage with onions,
simmering
beef with carrots,
the string of her apron
securely tied
around our world.
I wondered
in my youth
what could compel her
to care so much for peas
freshly freed from their jackets,
boiled just right
with a hint of
salt and butter
for children who
despised them,
groaned, pushed the
rolling green buggers
around on our plates,
not understanding the
time it took to shell them.
I muse,
reflect wistfully
as I peel carrots, parsnips,
beets, after their
muddy sink bath.
Roots are delicious
firm and smooth,
in honey with a splash of orange juice,
instinctually
I add them,
my dimpled mother
whispering,
her index finger
warning
across the years,
don’t overcook. 
The vapors bring me
clarity,
conviction
I could not have had
a thousand meals ago.
So much uncertain
in my forties,
retirement funds
skinny and starving,
college students
needing credits
internships,
certifications
to be, at last,
employable.
As if on cue
she turns,
a spoonful of spaghetti sauce
raised to her lips,
tastes and winks,
put some in the freezer.
Her reassurance is
the warmth of bread dough
I touched as a child,
hidden beneath a
soft linen towel
in the yellow Pyrex bowl,
my twig-like finger
poking the very exact middle.
It was magic
I knew then
to make a wad of
flour and yeast
rise up, heal, fill
all who hungered in
her world,
covering hurt
with milk and sugar,
soothing fear with
homemade gravy.
 
From Coffee Break for Quilters: A Patchwork of Original Poems (Tree Deck Publishing, 2012).
Used here with the author’s permission.

 

 
Purchase a framed print of this poem.

Gretchen Friel is a high school English teacher with a Masters Degree in Secondary English from National-Louis University. Gretchen is passionate about her family, church, writing, quilting, playing soccer, creating scrapbooks, and trying out new recipes with something from the backyard harvest. Her husband, Shawn, is a gardener, Harley rider, and wood craftsman. A breast cancer survivor, Gretchen recently moved “getting published” up on her bucket list. Now that her first poetry book, Coffee Break for Quilters is complete, she is working on her first young adult novel. 
 

 


Post New Comment:
Hearther Awad:
Beautiful and inspiring!
Posted 04/15/2015 08:35 AM
erinsnana:
a wonderful tribute to a mother on this Mother's Day eve.
Posted 05/10/2014 06:27 PM
Jo:
I thoroughly enjoyed your poem today. It made me lonesome for my mother, and gave me pause. Thank you.
Posted 05/09/2014 04:28 PM
Barry:
Great poem!!
Posted 05/09/2014 08:52 AM
Cindy:
"the string of her apron securely tied around our world" is my favorite part. A wonderful poem.
Posted 05/09/2014 08:43 AM
Rob:
A lovely tribute to the power of cooking and mom! So true that both bring comfort and clarity in troubled times....
Posted 05/09/2014 05:15 AM
Katrina:
I can smell the yeast.
Posted 05/09/2014 04:27 AM
Sharon Urdahl:
Lovely honouring of your mother. So many lessons...beautifully remembered. Fed my soul.
Posted 05/09/2014 12:37 AM
Ross Kightly:
Whatever the reasons for the long, thin shape - and who could object? it brings one at last to 'homemade gravy'. And tears of gratitude.
Posted 05/09/2014 12:13 AM
KevinArnold:
Love the long thin form. Reminds me of one of my favorite writers about creativity: "A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate symphony." Abraham Maslow
Posted 05/08/2014 11:49 PM
Joe Sottile:
Good to see a long and slender poem that speaks volumes about being a good mother. Bravo!
Posted 05/08/2014 11:39 PM


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