BEACH PLUM JELLY
by Nancy Bailey Miller
For Mother, it’s an early start.
Break of day we cross to Palmer’s Cove,
while low tide laps the sandbar.
Basket picnic, folding chair, red Thermos,
each of us with a blue tin bucket. Today
Mother doesn’t tell my sister she is fat.
Coppertone slathered over our bodies,
white tees cover our bathing suits, our shoulders,
protect our fair and freckled skin.
Early plovers have not landed here to sample,
but the plums are ripe. We fill our pails —
ample to pick before the tide turns.
At noon we’re wading to our knees;
we cross to lunch set on the army blanket.
No talk of Father’s faults, today.
In the kitchen Mother ties the quarts
of purple fruit in double cheesecloth,
fills the white enamel pot with water.
While we are banished, berries bubble, simmer
on the stove. All day she sterilizes Mason jars —
her cousin died from botulism on the farm.
Her double boiler melts the blocks of wax.
By dinnertime the pectin, sugar,
beach plum juice are in the jars,
the wax poured, soft and setting.
Tonight, she’ll tighten down the tops.
From some things she protects us.
Copyright © 2016 by Nancy Bailey Miller.