Raspberry Jam

Published in Fireweed, 1997 & Talus & Scree, 1998.

Paralyzed by stroke, my mother lies[break]on raspberry sourballs she can’t reach,[break]stashed long ago when she hedged her diet,[break]hiding sweets between the mattresses.[break]Her eyes half-shuttered sideways,[break]she can’t see the peas on her plate.

Jamming in June so her glowing red[break]jars would reach us by Christmas,[break]she fell flat on the kitchen floor, alone[break]in her berry-stained apron. Her pickers[break]had moved away, just as the berries[break]deserted her hands and scattered.

For her we’d crawl deep in thickets,[break]thrust past scratches for the large liquid[break]berries, come out purple-mouthed, bloody,[break]grinning with overflowing baskets.[break]Yet her thankful hugs were so thorny[break]I felt she loved jam more than me.

That winter we spread her ashes[break]over the tangled raspberry patch,[break]dusting the sharp red canes almost[break]covered with snowdrifts. Afterwards[break]in the dark pantry rows of red jars[break]warmed my ash-covered hands.

The new owners of the farm like lawn,[break]smooth glade without a trace of bramble.[break]Now on Christmas twenty years later,[break]we open the last raspberry jam.

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