Verses by Marianne Peel; Art by Maya Pillai
My mama keeps asking me when the children will come,
when she can be called Beloved Baba or Babushka
when she can expect those miniature handprints of flour on her apron,
making dough for pierogies with her grandbaby.
And I tell her, “Soon, Mama, soon…” as she pats my stomach,
anticipating the rolling of a foetus beneath her palm.
Back home, always in the middle of the night, the blood comes.
It comes every twenty-eight days.
My hands are raw white chalk from the bleach I use to scour the sheets,
to rub out from the bedclothes this sloughing off my insides.
Because this seed will not take root in me,
I work the soil with bare hands. I bury a seed beneath the fertile soil.
The vines of the zucchini early choke the tomato plants,
nearly strangle the corn stalks.
I have more than I can hold.
The root cellar is wallpapered with labelled mason jars.
Every shelf sagging with stewed tomatoes,
bread and butter pickles, cabbage-laden chow chow.
So I rent a wooden booth at the market,
price my wares lower than my neighbours.
On the way home, my wheelbarrow
stutters over ruts, jar against jar.
I wait for the crack of glass,
The commingling of beet and pickle juices.
I still have more than I can hold
and have become the village surpriser
depositing jars in doorways, on porches,
even in the hollows of trees.
Sometimes I sit on the curb the next day
watching boys and girls with playground hands
discover these food offerings.
They run them up to their porch,
holding them precious to their chests,
these treasures, and transfer them to mother hands
that emerge from behind screen doors.
I plant marigolds, too,
and make bouquets of flowers and vegetables.
A berserk bundle of garden in my hands
as an offering, to my mama,
for the child that refuses to take root in the soil of me.