How To Make Jam – Robin Neuwirth

Stand alone
in the morning
after ten years have passed.
Walk out to the front porch
barefoot, step onto the jagged asphalt driveway
into the cold backyard.     
Visit the leafless tree.
Talk to your mother
even though she is dead,
tell her you need fruit this year,
ask her to do something about it,
because she loves you,
wait for an answer, a sign
when there is none 
remember it doesn’t work that way. 
Set out her wooden bowl, 
the one she made chopped liver in, 
remember how she made it look so easy.
Choose a knife and polish it.
Find the one her father brought from Odessa,
be patient.
Visit the tree again.
Watch for the popcorn white flowers,
when the first one pops
wash and dry the pot she kept
under the kitchen cupboards 
in the house she loved
if you can’t find it,
keep looking.
It will be there eventually.  
When the small green leaves begin to unroll
gather jars.
Pretend you are not waiting for the jam,
let the bees take over
give the fruit a chance
to grow.  
Take out the sticky red notebook
and go through all her recipes,
it’s got to be there somewhere,
cry when you see her handwriting,
remember she called you my baby.
The tiny plums will grow and darken,
wait for the fruit to drop–
open your hands,
alone, like hers and catch it.
Boil the fruit
until it is sticky.
Seal the jars speaking her name
always waiting for her answer.

Robin Neuwirth is from Southern California, where she teaches high school English, takes care of two teenage daughters, and most days dreams of swimming in the ocean.

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