for my mother
In my sleep I practice the motions:
press out and down with the heel of the hand, fold in half
turn ninety degrees. I turn to the left. She always turns right.
It's time to rise.
I draw her hands on onionskin paper, overlay them over mine:
impossibly soft, pink and yellow and brown, more relaxed here, kneading
than they've ever been in her life.
At the dinner table, they will clench into fists. She carries a heavy suitcase
all the weight of the generations whose hands made bread on
Friday afternoons. I carry it too.
My hands are not so strong, not yet. They cramp and shake and
lose their grip
but they can press and fold
turn and repeat.
So I carry the recipe in my backpack with the travel-sized candle sticks
and whenever I find myself in a kitchen on a Friday afternoon...
It comes to be a part of the character I play.
I take a laptop into a kitchen and make dough while the professor speaks.
They laugh and accept it, after a while. Come to expect it.
Then, a bad night: he curls into my chest in the morning and
I don't know what to do to make it better
so I go into the kitchen while he showers and checks on his mother
pinch some sugar into water
feed the yeast.
And when they come downstairs I am at the counter, kneading
and soon the house smells warm and golden
and I think that maybe everything will be okay.
So at the news of a family tragedy, a broken bone, a broken heart
I pull out the flour and the honey
just like she did all my life.
Because up to my elbows in gluten I am at once eighty-three
preparing to see my grandchildren
and three years old, sitting under the kitchen table with my baby doll and
memorizing the movements of my mother's hands
giggling as the smell of yeast tickles my nose
a strange toddler photosynthesis
wherein my mother's voice and hands and teaching are the sun
and the hollow sound of her knuckles on the brown bottom of the loaves
and I am green and green and growing.