Friday, November 18, 2016

November 18: Before Thanksgiving, Richard Blanco, "Mother Picking Produce"

This weekend before Thanksgiving, I've been thinking a lot about the meals my mother used to prepare for the holiday.  How I would wake up in the morning to the smell of the turkey already in the oven.  Watching the Macy's parade on television while she made Jell-O molds, boiled potatoes, and stirred gravy.  The cranberries on the plate, still ribbed and shaped like a can.

In my mind, Thanksgiving was my mother's holiday.  She worked herself to exhaustion, the whole day.  And then, when everything was on the table, she would sit down to a wine glass filled with Cold Duck.  She would sometimes give me a sip of it, cool and red and bitter.

Now, it's up to us.  We cook the turkey and pumpkin pies.  Mash the potatoes.  Open the cranberries.  Drop the fruit into the Jell-O.  And my mother sits there and marvels at all the food in front of her.  Thanks us for making the dinner.

Saint Marty was an ungrateful kid, not really appreciating anything that his mother did.

Mother Picking Produce

by:  Richard Blanco

She scratches the oranges then smells the peel,
presses an avocado just enough to judge its ripeness,
polishes the Macintoshes searching for bruises.

She selects with hands that have thickened, fingers
that have swollen with history around the white gold
of a wedding ring she now wears as a widow.

Unlike the archived photos of young, slender digits
captive around black and white orange blossoms,
her spotted hands now reaching into the colors.

I see all the folklore of her childhood, the fields,
the fruit she once picked from the very tree,
the wiry roots she pulled out of the very ground.

And now, among the collapsed boxes of yucca,
through crumbling pyramids of golden mangos,
she moves with the same instinct and skill.

This is how she survives death and her son,
on these humble duties that will never change,
on those habits of living which keep a life a life.

She holds up red grapes to ask me what I think,
and what I think is this, a new poem about her-
the grapes look like dusty rubies in her hands,

what I say is this: they look sweet, very sweet.

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