Goodbourn 70

Melissa Goodbourn

Pickling Summer

Beetroot shines through mason jars like torchlight in a basement
my fingers smell of vinegar and purple streaks our aprons, stains everything
I touch. It was summer, always summer –

Our fingers ached from clamping hissed air out rubber seals
while ceramic dolls stood waiting like you have waited ever since

We pull up to the driveway to a pointless Oldsmobile. Sit and stir our memories
and I notice your grey hair.
You say, Missy,
her hair is as blonde as yours at that age
as long as yours at that age,
then let her turn the pages reading Rumpelstiltskin

I listen.

I am part of these walls, these floorboards, this ceiling,
and I know
without looking how your hands stay knotted
curled next to her fine fingers. They are rooted in each room –
in cold tiles, on swept floors, on the carport through a screened door
underneath the wardrobe –

I feel a breeze that tells me summer’s ending.

My feet remember: grass-hopping sprinklers, a creak and a splinter,
cobwebs and jars stacked like spices on a wooden rack
I fetch our long day’s work: our Tuesday supper served
plates full of pickled beets and salted tomatoes, juice running
down our chins we quench our thirst

Now, palms rest on my lap.

I no longer believe in prayer.

Instead I run these hands slow, over brocade chairs. If you asked me
I would go down that hole again, draw water from the same well and turn the earth –

and wait for them to warm

peel skin beneath my nails, seal tight around the lids and line the jars
straight across the counter – one

for each hour that slips
like winter light through your linen curtains.

Melissa Goodbourn is originally from North Carolina and now lives in Dunbar, Scotland. She is an active member of a local writing group, and has previously been invited to perform her poetry as part of the Flint & Pitch Revue for Coastword Festival. Her poetry has been published in 404 Ink's POWER issue and she was shortlisted for the New Writer's Award 2018 (Fiction) by the Scottish Book Trust. Recently, one of her poems was selected as Highly Commended in the 2018 Bridport Poetry Competition.