Remembering the Queens of Canning

For all of us that have observed the process of canning, helped with canning, or done canning ourselves we know it is not for the weak or impatient! I was inspired to can foods myself by the Queens of Canning:  Auntie Lila, Mom, Grandma West, Grandma Woolum, my sister Carol, Aunt May, Cousin Helen, and Auntie Ronnie. Whether worms came out of the cherries, a few jars broke, or sticky stuff got all over the stove, it was all worth it. This poem just puts you there in a kitchen from youth with the smells of dill and garlic filling the air.

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

1 comment:

  1. This really brings back so many memories of times with my mom and sis.


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