“Mother” by Merrijane Rice

You haven’t left yet,
but when you do
I’ll remind the children how you
made sandwiches on warm wheat bread,
stocked popsicles in your outdoor freezer,
filled closets with homemade quilts.
I’ll tell them old stories
of you pacing restless nights away,
waiting for flown teenagers.
Mothers never sleep well, you’d say.I’ll show them how to make
hand-pulled honey candy
from notes I scratched out
that day I called you, craving.

I’ll teach them how to scrape
buttery flesh from artichoke leaves,
lift pastry sheets untorn into bed,
fill strawberry pots with petunias, phlox, asters—
anything but strawberries.

I’ll sing them up mornings,
kneel them down evenings,
fast them full, pray them safe
each breathing moment.

But even if I squeeze out
every drop you poured into me,
those bitter-sweet juices
can only flow so long.

So when you go,
leave the door ajar.
Peek in while we sleep,
whisper reminders
of how to measure hems straight
and the best way to comfort
newborn puppies.