Shelling peas after a day at the farmer's market, I am
to one of three mismatched chairs at the formica dinette table
in my grandmother's postage-stamp kitchen,
trying to keep pace with her, my small efforts no match
for the experience in her old hands.
I pop the stem of a pea pod back,
pull the string down the outside curve,
unzipping a jacket, only to find
a row of fat green pearl buttons inside.
Pea pods are the oysters of the garden –
inside some pods, a string of perfect pearls
in others, disappointment.
Pulling a string along the inside curve of a pea pod,
I create Thumbelina's canoe.
On first opening the outside curve of a pod,
I spy one row – a steady green caterpillar;
opening further, the hinge unclasps:
every other pea held to opposite sides
of this green womb by a tiny umbilicus.
Unzipping pods to strip reveal their insides,
I think about Charles Darwin:
Here three are fat and one is left unformed;
there, seven peas crowd so tightly their sides are flat,
blocks in a row that do not wish to separate.
Opening the last one, peas burst out;
avoiding my bowl, my hands,
they scatter four feet away on the floor.
The cat lies in wait to strike them.
I feel that I should write thank-you note
To the compost-bound empty husks:
Dear mother pods,
You have given me your children.
I had to pry them loose from the slight green cords
that bound them to you, through which
you gave them life and nurtured them.
Your job now over, I consign you to the compost heap.
Please know that before you can decay,
I will have eaten your children
dressed only with butter, salt and some pepper.
Lessons I Wish I Could Share With My Teenage Daughter
Pay close attention to the words boys say:
It's not their tone or attitude that matter.
They frequently speak truth, whether they flatter,
Cajole, berate or seem like they're at play.
Don't be so quick to give yourself away –
You are more Alice than you are Mad Hatter.
Don't worry so much over hallway chatter:
Most drama lasts no longer than a day.
Sometimes you grow up faster than your friends,
While other times, you'll struggle to keep pace –
It's not a race. Remember no one spends
Eternity in high school. It's a place
To learn life's ropes, but everyone transcends
Their adolescence: suffering into grace.
There was a time, once upon a time,
before it all went south,
we two were inseparable:
Curled amid rumpled Sunday morning sheets
with the Times, you in a ratty T-shirt, me
in another of your soft, ratty T-shirts.
We read For Whom the Bell Tolls aloud to one
another after dinner over goblets of plummy wine –
no time or need for television then, ourselves
our own playground of delights. Shared interests,
similar beliefs, so very much in common, both
of the same persuasion in all things.
Strange that a life with so little contradiction
wore us down, absence of conflict somehow a flaw,
our parting – easily accomplished, eternally rued.
The bell of memory tolls for thee, of course;
the bell of memory rings regrets louder with each passing year.
Songs ("Throwing it All Away" by Genesis,
Sting's "You Only Cross My Mind in Winter") twist
like drill bits through memory and emotion,
opening paths to images, sensations long
forgotten, leaving sharp burrs of sorrow,
pain, remorse and longing around its edges.
I'd tell you now, if I could, that I miss us:
the us that was, the us we might have been.
I choose not to think what that means
with respect to the us I'm part of now.
Kelly Ramsdell Fineman earned a B.A. from Susquehanna
University and has a law degree from Georgetown University. She
lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and writes poetry for children
as well as adults. Her first picture book, At the Boardwalk, is
due out in 2012. She won an award from Writer's Digest for her
work, and her poems have appeared in Up & Under and Highlights
for Children Magazine, among other places.