by Janet Ford

“Go and find enough sky
to make a man a pair of trousers.”
We looked at one another,
daughter and mother,

through the glass heat
above the sugar fire.
I had said it again:
“There’s nothing to do.”

I had been to the river
to look for fiddleheads
on my way with another pail
of sloshing sap;

she would pour it
into the foaming gold
that frothed and bubbled
in the lobster pot.

And I had broken fallen limbs
into a tinder pile,
and handed her half a wall
of elder wood,

a chunk at a time.
All day she had stood
by her steaming hearth
while six months’ snowfall

rippled away, and wind
from a thousand miles of ice
roared among the branches
overhead. A spark popped,

and she stirred the hissing logs,
as though the years
and the wars in her wake
would boil away,

give themselves over
to ash and smoke.
I was tired of the wind,
tired of the cold,

afraid that I
could not be worth it all.
“Let’s see what the trees
have given us,” she said,

and she ladled warm ooze
out over the snow.
She took off a glove,
and lifted the soft taffy.

“Ah, syrup!”
It was then I remembered
the clean white sheets
of home.

Janet Ford’s poem “Straw” appeared in Crosswinds Poetry Journal this year. In 2017, she received the Guy Owen prize from Southern Poetry Review.

About Syrup—In April, my mother would spend two days boiling maple sap over an open fire, and have only a half pint of syrup to show for it. But it was never a matter of production for her. It was more a matter of taste.