by Sue Ann Gleason
Ask me for the measure of starter and water
in a loaf of sourdough bread.
How to gently pull the dough across the
surface of a marble slab,
folding it like an envelope
so that the gluten strengthens slowly
and with intention.
Ask me how those loaves of sourdough
kept my hands steady
and my mind occupied
on days that fear and anxiety
rose as exponentially as the starter.
Ask me about my grandmother’s kitchen.
The sound of onions sizzling in a cast iron skillet,
the smell of garlic, the shape of her hands
chopping vegetables, teasing pie crust over a heap
of cinnamon soaked apples.
Ask me about candles on countertops,
how she lit those candles daily and prayed
to patron saints, the depth of her faith reflected
in the whisper-thin pages of her prayer book
and the seven children she raised in the midst
of The Great Depression.
Ask me about the sound of her voice praying
the rosary in Italian and how that became
a lullaby singing me to sleep.
Ask me about breakfast in her home,
thick slabs of toasted bread slathered
with cinnamon butter and smiles.
Ask me about my grandfather’s breakfast –
the crunch of cornflakes, the tap, tap, tap of spoon
on the delicate shell of a soft-boiled egg.
How he swirled the remaining milk in the bowl
with the last drop of thick, dark coffee from his cup.
And, if my memory serves me here, a shot of whiskey
to warm his belly for a day digging ditches,
the price he paid to live in America.
Ask about the garden out back, how in summer months
it resembles the one my grandfather tended —
sun ripened tomatoes, basil and beans.
How every morsel in my kitchen, from the
sourdough loaves to the simmer of tomato sauce,
is the love language of my grandmother’s hands.