by Shoshauna Shy

Comfort Words

No better word than summer
and the railing of your father’s pontoon
under your bare heels, the fizz
of cream soda on your tongue
while the soft-as-silk breeze
fingers a lock of your hair
like it’s relieved to have found you.
It helps guide your father’s fishing lure
to the place where bass swim,
and all you hear is the rustle of leaves
in the tallest tops of the hickories
and the gentle  ker-plip  of his bait
when it lands.

And then there is kitchen
golden-orange as the marmalade
in its little crock, the smell of cinnamon
when breakfast is baking before the cousins-
from-Kentucky wake up. Or the meatloaf
in the oven with its onion broth glaze
soon to rest nestled beside cheddared potatoes
exhaling an S of hot breath.
Take them both:   summer    kitchen

and you have cobs of corn; you have
buttermilk biscuits and barbecue slathered
on drumsticks; you have a pitcher of iced tea
sweating onto the oilcloth while a woman –
your mother or your lover or your dad’s
live-in girlfriend – pushes blonde hair
off her face with the heel of one hand,
sets a plate of melon on the table
there beside you.



…dream of that mother who smells like
           cherry Pop-Tarts toasting, not yet burnt…”
                                 – Olena Kalytiak Davis


I wonder was it she who
set us in motion escorted
by a certain flavor for the rest
of our days: that woman who
rocked our cradle, mixed our
milk, paved our seasons
with cashmere, sandpaper
or a slippery slope; the sound-
track played by Mick Jagger,
Beethoven or the Shirelles.
Whether by age 50 or 60
we’re convinced we survived
cushioned by suede, rocks
or cardboard, was it the pattern

of childhood expectations
ingrained by yes-or-no’s,
the barefoot races through
barnyard bracken or that we
were strapped into Buster
Browns? Perhaps the tornado
that verified our fears
was responsible; the drought
that sent the family to the pine lots
of Michigan; the typhoon that
punished our harvest; a blizzard
that kept a favorite uncle
in the kitchen one extra day.

Or could it simply reside within
our DNA code, the ability
to detect silver in the rubble,
resonate with awe for the blaze
of poppies, hold a readiness
to notice first that which
sails, glides, and sings?
If only I knew it was due to
sequence: the choices we make,
the choices made for us that decides
whether life presents a panicked

bleat, a dirge or the upper octave
as light on its feet as the sparrow;
brings the fur of the lamb’s ear
to shins or the sting of burrs
to the nape; why for some
the melody of wind chimes;
for others the breath of oily threat,
the suction of quicksand.
Then I would know to what

or to whom I give my own nod
of appreciation for the perpetual
offering of chocolate and indigo,
this a cappella wrapped in velour
and laced with lavender; a kaleido-
scopic prism where hours snap
together with comfortable precision;
these cherries, whole and plump
in their shining bowl.


Photo by Bryam Blanco on Unsplash