Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The delicate skin of the pear

On which there are always blemishes, little things that happened on the way to the store in the big truck and on the way to your house in a reusable shopping bag.  Because the skin of a pear is a tender and vulnerable thing.

I keep saying I have to give Ted Kooser a rest, that I need to find other types of poetry. So I sit and look through books I have marked the pages of, and then I pick up Weather Central, just for a minute, and find tonight's poem without even struggling.

A Stoneware Crock

Take hold of this old five-gallon crock
stamped with its little red wings,
and hook your thumbs over its lip,
and let it fly you back over the years

to the gray-green backwater valley
of pickled, to sugary kitchens
with galvanized buckets of cucumbers
smelling like freshly brushed hair,

a place of red hands, of oilcloth,
of mason jars bubbling in canners
enameled like midnight and spattered
with stars, of linoleum floors

where big women move on their casters
like upright pianos, rumbling along
with their bifocals steamed, keeping
the stove stoked, the coffeepot on,

their gossip rolling at a steady boil
as the packed jars cool, and lids clack in
upon the vacuum, and the morning air
is wild with flags of vinegar.

Ted Kooser, from Weather Central, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1994, page 53.

There is so much truth in this poem, so much carefully selected correct information, along with outrageous metaphorical play, that reading it over after I typed it, I am still giggling. As well as being in the steamy kitchen when my slender mother canned tomatoes, canned grape juice poured through double layers of cheescloth, and, yes, pickles! And where we also dried corn kernels in the slowest oven, overnight, with the oven door left ajar to let the moisture escape. Oh that corn, its flavor, its chewiness!

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