The recipe card doesn’t say whether to use an electric mixer or how much yeast to add. She just knew. The old man enters with her ashes in a plastic box. We sit down at the kitchen table, so I can measure out my portion to keep. It’s after ten, and I have the mixing, the rising, the rolling, and the baking still ahead. He pries open the lid with a screwdriver. Someone had told me it might not be just ash, that there could be pieces of bone and other things. And there are. Bleached white chunks of bone, cut blunt in the cremulator, and a cap from her tooth that I quick push out of his sight. Bones are blocking the neck of the funnel. I spill my mom’s ashes on the kitchen table here where I drew with crayons and cut out cookies, where did my homework while she made dinner, where I will make the Parker House rolls this time. I say, “I’m so sorry, Dad.” And he says, “Don’t worry. It’s not her. It’s burned cancer.” But it is all that is left of my mother’s body. I brush her ashes off the table, noticing the fine dust filming my palms. After he goes to bed, I wash the table, the funnel, my hands. I mix yeast into warm water with my fingertips, wondering if she did it that way too.
I better let you go now
Just look at you. There are thinkers and there are doers. I hate women in suburbia. Do not ever put on a dress or a skirt without a slip. No one will ever want to marry you if you cannot keep your room clean. That’s tragic! Make up makes women look cheap. You wear anything well. Older women shouldn’t dye their hair. Just enjoy it! The only difference between a girl chewing gum and a cow chewing its cud is the intelligent look on the cow’s face. Self confidence is easy! You always gravitate toward the weirdos. Oh, and it’s lined! Put a little sugar in the broccoli water. Damn it! I don’t know why I’m crying. Then do it. If I buy it for you I have to like it too. Brat brat brat! Don’t ever pluck your eyebrows. God, it costs a fortune, I could make it for you for half that much. You are my little elephant. No, it doesn’t hurt too much. Try to be more aware of your extremities. Go get busy! This needs ironing. What’s that you’re wearing? Do not have sex until you are married because if you do you will never want to stop. God, watch out for that truck! Always make a bed with hospital corners. A little makeup wouldn’t hurt. It’s time we had a talk. There’s just nothing like French fries. When my feelings knock, I do not answer the door. Collar, sleeve, sleeve, placket, and body. I never thought it would be like this. You look so beautiful. Listen, I better let you go now.
Alison Moncrieff writes and raises chickens and children in Oakland, California, her home of 30 years. Her work appeared most recently in Bay Area Generations. She has poems forthcoming in the The East Bay Review and from Little Red Leaves Textile Series. Currently she is developing a series of sacred garments to boost the superpowers of 21st century people. Find her playing in the intersection of stitch and poetry at woolontheradio.tumblr.com.