At The Catholic Worker House: 1968

“There are nothing but gifts on this poor, poor Earth.”—C. Milosz

Flitting & chattering to herself, someone’s mother hovers above

her bowl of soup with a thin, conspiratorial rectitude, the bowl

loaded to the very edge of a chipped lip & on the verge of spilling

over. Turning to one side, she cocks her good ear to her day’s only

meal, querulous, questioning her meager portion, morsel by precious

morsel, first the lentils & stewed tomatoes, then those bits of torn

basil floating on the oily surface, all the while hunting further

as if somewhere in her portion there swims our President

Johnson’s paranoid & bitter farewell to the entire nation. 

When she hears nothing, she attacks her day’s thick slice

of black bread, cautiously turning it over for hidden signs

of a curse or a coded message, searching with a raptor’s sharp

eye over the smallest olive. A Whitman in his dirty, kitchen apron

fills our water glasses & says nothing but nods non-judgmentally

to the two of us. I look over & the woman has become, for me,

the plum tree I remember near the alley behind my boyhood home. 

Weighted by wind & years, all its limbs were gnarled & knotted

beyond recognition. At last, exhausted & done in, it rested heavily,

leaning with resignation against the garage roof. No one expected

anything further from it although miraculously each autumn all

of the last spring’s Buddha-budded blossoms burst into thick,

sticky globes of ripe juice under their dusty, royal jackets. 

As children, we clambered higher & higher into that tangle of

branches above to eat & eat & get the runs for three days running,

only to promise our mother over & over never again would we be so

foolish. Now such a delicious symmetry: Somebody’s forgotten

mother stares up at me, another mother’s ill-begotten son, over

soup & the small comfort of black, olive bread as the last

remaining plum lies in wait in a cracked bowl before us,

waiting for the rendering of a Solomon’s judgment & every-

thing to be made right & whole once again, a shining, new day. 

—Terry Savoie

Published in the 2012-11-09 issue: 

Terry Savoie is a husband, father, and teacher. He has published material in more than a hundred and fifty literary journals over the past twenty-five years including Poetry, America, and American Poetry Review.

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