4.29.2010

National Poetry Month Coming to an End: Canning Time

It is hard to believe April will soon be leaving us. I carved time out all month to read new, old, favorite, and classic poems. I have had the poster you see on the sidebar on my whiteboard of the classroom all month. A student just yesterday said, "How long has that poster been there?"  I do love to celebrate National Poetry Month even if a few students don't notice!  I will continue to celebrate my love for poetry many more times on this blog. I am returning to one of my favorite anthologies with my poem today. The book is Strings: A Gathering of Family Poems, selected by Paul Janeczko. This poem reminds me of Grandma West, Grandma Woolum, Auntie Lila, Auntie Ronnie, Aunt May, cousin Helen, my mom, myself, JEJ, and my sister Silver Valley Girl... all the great canners in the family!

Canning Time

The floor was muddy with the juice of peaches
and my mother's thumb, bandaged for the slicing,
watersobbed. She and Aunt Wessie skinned
bushels that day, fat Georgia Belles
slit streaming into the pot. Their knives
paid out limp bands onto the heap
of parings. It took care to pack the jars,
reaching in to stack the halves
firm without bruising, and lowering
the heavy racks into the boiler already
trembling with steam, the stove malignant
in heat. As Wessie wiped her face
the kitchen sweated its sweet filth.
In that hell they sealed the quickly browning
flesh in capsules of honey, making crystals
of separate air across the vacuums.
The heat and pressure were enough to grow
diamonds as they measured hot
syrup into quarts. By supper the last jar
was set on the counter to cool
into isolation. Later in the night
each little urn would pop as it
achieved its private atmosphere and
we cooled into sleep, the stove now
neutral. The stones already
pecked clean in the yard were free to try
again for the sun. The orchard meat fixed in
cells would be taken down cellar in the
morning to stay gold like specimens
set out and labeled, a vegetal
battery we'd hook up later. The women
too tired to rest easily think of
the treasure they've laid up today
for preservation at coffin level, down there
where moth and rust and worms corrupt,
a first foundation of shells to be
fired at the winter's muddy back.
-Robert Morgan

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