Thursday, August 6, 2015

Poem of the Day: "My Mother’s Relish Plate" by Carol Hamilton, Poet of the Month

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "My Mother’s Relish Plate" by Carol Hamilton, Poet of the Month.  Ms. Hamilton will also be serving as the guest judge for the Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest, which will run from September 1 to October 15, 2015.  A detailed biography of Ms. Hamilton may be found here:  http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2015/08/songs-of-eretz-poetry-review-poet-of.html.  The contest guidelines may be previewed here:  http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/p/songs-of-eretz.html.

My Mother’s Relish Plate
Carol Hamilton
 
It was the family joke,
for she fretted about it
happily, called me again
and again before each feast,
staccato ritual to my preparations.
Should the olives be jumbo
or medium-sized, green or black,
cucumber or sweet pickles,
cheddar cheese sticks
or honey-glazed pecans?
Now a heavy silence
invades my kitchen
as I stuff the turkey
or glaze the ham,
for the children say
well in advance
that they will bring
homemade rolls or sugary yams
or Kosher spears, and no
uncertainty, perhaps no
anxious joy, invades these
discussions. The phone
sits silent. We add new babies
to our festivities.
I make her orange jello recipe.
We always raved over it,
and now I learn
no one liked it after all.
I gave each daughter
and daughter-in-law
relish trays, and the orange jello
will probably keep
sneaking onto the menu,
for some dishes,
even uneaten ones,
like my grandmother’s
bacon-drenched turnips,
fill hungers we cannot
even name.

Poet’s Notes:  “My Mother’s Relish Plate” revels in the details of family times together, using specific foods and how they fit into the history of family gatherings to give the poem life. It alludes to the little lies that keep family life smooth, and how we honor deep emotions that we rarely speak of.

Editor’s Note:  This poem reminds me of how ethnic or traditional food brings together families and binds together families as they expand (along with their waistlines, as in my case).  “My Mother’s Relish Plate” was originally published in Chiron. 

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