Objects of my Affections

Objects, Memory and Meaning

Tag: mother



A robin slammed
into my window last night
with a sound like a shot.
The room shook
as she flew full throttle
into a mirage of clear blue freedom,
only to meet a blow equal to her power.
I ran to find her on her back,
wildly thrashing, her tail
a flashing gray fan
against red bricks,
her legs bent awry,
before she stilled.
My heart broke a little,
caught again
between love and helplessness.

I thought of my mother
watching me soar into first marriage,
knowing  the danger.
At the wedding, her face betrayed
her fear it was a funeral.
Nonetheless, unasked she’d cooked for days,
platters of her flaky piroshki,
thin buckwheat blini
with sour cream and caviar.

At times our loved ones fly,
fueled by fervor
and innocence, towards a phantom.
Do we hold our hearts open?
Do we stand at our stoves for them?
Can we love ourselves, give thanks,
when we stand again on wobbly legs,
shake our wings, head for
another piece of sky?
Do we pray for the robin
who collided too soon, too hard,
who lay cold and alone,
carried off by a predator in the night?

– Anna Belle Kaufman


Detail from Florilgeum by John Marshall, c. 1650

Cold Solace, by Anna Belle Kaufman

This poem originally appeared in The Sun Magazine, September 2010.

When my mother died,
one of her honey cakes remained in the freezer.
I couldn’t bear to see it vanish,
so it waited, pardoned,
in its ice cave behind the metal trays
for two more years.

On my forty-first birthday
I chipped it out,
a rectangular resurrection,
hefted the dead weight in my palm.

Before it thawed,
I sawed, with serrated knife,
the thinnest of slices —
Jewish Eucharist.

The amber squares
with their translucent panes of walnuts
tasted — even toasted — of freezer,
of frost,
a raisined delicacy delivered up
from a deli in the underworld.

I yearned to recall life, not death —
the still body in her pink nightgown on the bed,
how I lay in the shallow cradle of the scattered sheets
after they took it away,
inhaling her scent one last time.

I close my eyes, savor a wafer of
sacred cake on my tongue and
try to taste my mother, to discern
the message she baked in these loaves
when she was too ill to eat them:

I love you.
It will end.
Leave something of sweetness
and substance
in the mouth of the world.

Honey cake recipe. This one not my mother’s, but that of the mother of Rachel Hershfield, published in her blog, “Home Sweet and Savory.” (http://www.homesweetandsavory.com.)