poem #59

Women have always known
about being mindful.
Confined in kitchens,
like monks in monastaries,
we have learned the rhythms of breath
in time with kneading dough,
levelling tablespoons and cups,
measuring pinches and dashes with our fingertips.
We have known stillness in the scrutiny of sugars,
the sifting of flours,
the sharp smell of lemons and
the silky depths of vanilla.
We have known the waiting spaces
between heartbeats
while measuring out our lives
in teaspoons and quarter cups and ounces,
in cakes and breads and muffins.
It has never been a particularly special knowledge,
just one handed down through generations,
from mother to daughter,
along with a set of measuring spoons,
a baking tin,
a stack of trusted recipes,
making a lineage of sugar and breathing,
a discipline in its own right.

_________________________________________________________________________________This poem was inspired by my mother’s cheesecake recipe, which she not only gave me, but also taught me how to make. This is one of the recipes where I learned that the words on the paper are only a guide to how the ingredients are assembled–in order to make the recipe “right,” it’s not enough to follow the written instructions. You have to follow the unwritten instructions as well.

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