Canning Comfort

by Carolin Messier

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I stock the old pine cupboard with rows of mason jars
full of plump bing cherries
from this year’s record crop,
each one hand-plucked and pitted
and steeped in sweet red wine.

Five pounds at a time, I first wash,
then pluck, pluck, pluck
the stems from their belly buttons
fully ripe, their cords had let go of their mother’s arms
into the farmer’s hands,
then from the pile I
pick, squeeze, pit—
each stone hits the bowl
with a joyous ping.

I stock the old pine cupboard with rows of mason jars
forty-one quarts so far,
the result of ninety pounds of pitted fruit
and a generous case of wine.

Next to them rests a single jar
of old fashioned strawberry jam
the only one left from last year’s harvest,
back when cooking and canning
was simply done
to capture and preserve
summer’s sweetness at its peak,
before it was a meditation
to cope with grief,
an attempt to be present in a rhythmic task,
to feel the comfort of the hearth
the reassurance that seasons continue
another following the one that came before.

Needing to fill the old pine cupboard with rows of mason jars
sends me to the market
on the bricked and cobbled street,
the one they close each Sunday
and fill with farmers’ stalls,
street musicians, and sidewalk poets,
where I find peaches
whose scent of blossoms and sweet love
reaches my nose
before my eyes can notice
the cases filled with layers of their seductive shapes.

Like everything else this year they’re early,
before I’m ready,
and there’s no one left to make jam for
no one to enjoy his breakfast each morning
trimmed with jewels of peach, his favorite.

So I pass them by
and choose ninety more pounds of bing cherries
enough for a year of restaurant menus,
to return to my ashram of copper pots
and feel the comfort of a full larder
well before the weather turns cold.