Family Recipes

by Sarah Kilch Gaffney

My grandmother’s eyes 
wander the overgrown garden
while we pick lobsters, crack
knuckles at the kitchen table.

She likes to remind us how
they told my grandfather 
he’d never grow corn on the island, 
too battered by the sea, too much fog,

but he planted it along with
the usual turnips and rutabagas, 
blue potatoes and the magenta flesh 
of beets, and he succeeded.

I have never planted corn, and I grow 
things haphazardly, more dream than
dedication. I let my daughters run wild
with seed catalogs and always 

try to plant too much too close,
letting the pumpkins run over
the chard, the nasturtiums and
violas tangle in the cantaloupe, 

pulling the zucchini halfway
through the season because
it shadows everything and 
is always more than we can eat.

My southern grandmother now
comforted by the northern maritime 
life, where fog and family and friends
are a keeper’s light in the dark.

We’ve both watched
our husbands go gray with death
and felt the sharp absence when
reaching for the other side of the bed,

and I still only trust 
the recipes she’s given me
for fish chowder, pickled beets,
and a lost love’s history.

photo credit: Catalin Dragu, Unsplash