I long for my mother’s bread

Although I grew up in a home that celebrates mothers daily, I want to take this national day of reflection on motherhood to share both a scene from life with my mother, and one of her favorite poems. This weekend I published an essay in Serious Eats about how my mother’s baking ritual taught me how to love what we create–and when to let go. Amidst all the heartbreaking realities of today’s world, I remain ever grateful for the power of food, and for those who nourish us. I hope you enjoy this bit of prose that snuck into my poetry blog, and some insight into the person posting if you are one of the lovely readers I don’t know!

a photograph of my mother making fatayer, her hands spreading out the dough on the kitchen counter. rows of dough on the counter beside her along with olive oil and spinach in a bowl
My mother making fatayer. Image Credit Natalie Jabbar

As for the poem, here are the incredible words of one of the most beloved voices of Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008). He wrote this poem while in prison for his political activism, poetry, and travels without a permit.

My Mother

I long for my mother’s bread
My mother’s coffee
Her touch
Childhood memories grow up in me
Day after day
I must be worth my life
At the hour of my death
Worth the tears of my mother.

And if I come back one day
Take me as a veil to your eyelashes
Cover my bones with the grass
Blessed by your footsteps
Bind us together
With a lock of your hair
With a thread that trails from the back of your dress
I might become immortal
Become a God
If I touch the depths of your heart.

If I come back
Use me as wood to feed your fire
As the clothesline on the roof of your house
Without your blessing
I am too weak to stand.

I am old
Give me back the star maps of childhood
So that I
Along with the swallows
Can chart the path
Back to your waiting nest.

Make my cup overflow with your small happiness

illustration of two birds sitting on a marigold color mug, cheerfully. Mug is on a bed of coffee beans
Illustration by Kristina Closs

In the Company of Women

by January Gill O’Neil

Make me laugh over coffee,
make it a double, make it frothy
so it seethes in our delight.
Make my cup overflow
with your small happiness.
I want to hoot and snort and cackle and chuckle.
Let your laughter fill me like a bell.
Let me listen to your ringing and singing
as Billie Holiday croons above our heads.
Sorry, the blues are nowhere to be found.
Not tonight. Not here.
No makeup. No tears.
Only contours. Only curves.
Each sip takes back a pound,
each dry-roasted swirl takes our soul.
Can I have a refill, just one more?
Let the bitterness sink to the bottom of our lives.
Let us take this joy to go.

from Misery Islands

What I love Understands itself As properly scarce.  

illustration of a silhouette of a heart surrounded by branches, leaves, an owl, a sparrow, and blue flecked strawberries
Art by Kristina Closs

I Know What I Love

by Jericho Brown

It comes from the earth.
It is green with deceit.
Sometimes what I love 
Shows up at three 
In the morning and 
Rushes in to turn me
Upside down. Some-
Times what I love just
Doesn’t show up at all.  
It can hurt me if it 
Means to…because 
That’s what in love
Means. What I love 
Understands itself 
As properly scarce.  
It knows I can’t need 
What I don’t go without.  
Some nights I hold 
My breath. I turn as in
Go bad. When I die 
A man or a woman will
Clean up the mess 
A body makes. They’ll
Talk about gas prices
And the current drought 
As they prepare the blue-
Black cadaver that still,
As the dead do, groans:
I wanted what anyone 
With an ear wants— 
To be touched and 
Touched by a presence
That has no hands.

from The Tradition