Friday, January 19, 2018
The pungent aroma of clementines lingers on my hands
long after I have peeled the skin off them. The perfume
of the fruit carries me back to my mother’s kitchen
in the apartment on 17th Street when my mother
peeled a tangerine for me, encouraging me,
her sickly, skinny seven-year-old daughter to eat.
My mother, hands quick and efficient, peeled
the fruit and fed me one section at a time.
When I was a grown woman with children of my own,
my mother sat with me at her kitchen table and sliced
an apple for me, passing me one slice at a time,
and my daughter, grown up now too, remembers
her grandmother cutting up an orange or an apple
and feeding it to her when she was a child. My mother
never learned how to read and write English.
When she wanted to go to night school, my father said,
“No, women don’t need to go to school,” but my mother
knew by instinct how to love, knew how to nurture plants
and children so they’d thrive, knew how to offer
the right word of comfort, the words to give us courage
even when we were most afraid. No school could have
taught her what she knew. She taught us how to
reach out to others and feed them
one slice of comfort at a time.
by Maria Gillan, from Ancestors' Song
Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter . Her collection of poems along with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is MariaGillan.com.