Friday, September 30, 2011

SAVING SUMMER: A Memoir Poem







In September of 1984, my mother’s father passed away. I was devastated. I had spent many of my happiest childhood days at the home of my maternal grandparents. Two of my cousins lived on the other side of my grandparents’ duplex. We three cousins played together in my grandparents’ yard, made a clubhouse under their porch, picked apples and pears from their trees. We also had great times inside their house celebrating holidays like Easter and Christmas Eve. My grandparents took great joy in their granddaughters and loved watching us have fun together.

Dzidzi, my grandfather, had a big vegetable garden behind the house. He loved working there. He enjoyed having us kids pick tomatoes and peppers and onions and carrots and beets from his garden. Babci, my grandmother, would preserve many of the vegetables and fruits reaped in late summer and early fall.

After my grandfather died, I so wanted to write a story in verse about my Babci and Dzidzi. It didn’t work out too well. Some years later, an image from my childhood of my grandmother working in the cellar preserving tomatoes in mason jars popped into my head. That image gave me the inspiration for writing the poem Saving Summer—and for an entire collection of poems about my grandparents, their house, their yard, their garden—and the happy times I spent their with my cousins and sister. The collection takes me through a year at their house. The unpublished collection is titled A Home for the Seasons.


SAVING SUMMER

In the cellar
Babci sits on an old kitchen chair
made new with glossy gray paint.
Wearing an apron blooming with faded flowers,
she leans over the tub of steaming water,
plucks out plump tomatoes,
and peels off the wet, papery skins.
She fills shiny jars with soft red pulp,
stretches on rubber sealers,
presses down moon-round lids,
clicks closed the metal clamps.
She places the jars in a wire basket
and lowers them into a pot of bubbling water to cook.


On wooden shelves in a corner
she stores stewed tomatoes beside rows of pickled beets,
golden peach slices, green piccalilli,
and carrots the color of October pumpkins.
Standing there in late afternoon,
sunlight shining through a small side window,
I see her harvest preserved:
a rainbow glistening in glass.
Babci is keeping summer alive in jars.

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Over at Wild Rose Reader, I have a post titled Old Poems & New Furniture.

Sara Lewis Holmes has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Read Write Believe.

4 comments:

jama said...

*Swoon*

LOVE this one, Elaine (you know I've been loving the entire collection so far). So many beautiful images, summer "alive in jars." I like how you've captured the calm dreaminess of the season.

Naomi Canale said...

LOVE this one too! My favorite line is, "Babci is keeping summer alive in jars." Great name and visual. Thank you for this today.

Sara said...

I wish I knew how to can and preserve. The best I do is freeze peaches. But I have a brother-in-law who does apples---and the most amazing cider. I guess that's "saving fall."

Andi Sibley said...

My grandmother made piccalilli too, and my aunts still give me jars of it sometimes. Wonderful poem - thanks for sharing it! Today I am reviewing the book you sent me last June so thanks again.