We are skinning chicken in my mother's kitchen,
sticky wet in July. "We'll make soup from this," she
says, wishing for rain. The blade flashes
along the pale slick of breast, rends
the first fat in a stream of blood down my arm.
"That will scar," she says, "like mine, the one
I got from the kerosene lantern on the mining hat,
reading when candles were dear & electric was out."
Skin slips through my fingers. I tell her
I remember things: a feather ticked bed, her warmth
around me in winter under the tar paper roof
in the shingled shack. She says she can't remember
at 72, but then she remembers: her father,
packing his black bucket, water bottle on the bottom,
fresh slaughtered smoked sausage sandwiched
in still warm baked bread at the top. She remembers
primping for a Jennerstown boy, rubbing
the smell of smoke & onion away with salt
when there wasn't enough milk for the babies. She
says Papa rode the buggy on the rail down to the hole.
He bit the life out of land in Windber's #4, fed pig
gristle to rats who ran warnings when oxygen thinned
before sirens called a cave-in.
Skinny sinews slide through baubles of grease. I cut
my slippery hand again, ask her about the lantern
light, but she tells me about candles, taller than she
was at twelve, circling her young mother's coffin
and the Christmas tree planted in sawdust.
Rubbing her scar, "there was almost a fire," she says,
"when mama's first lover staggered in wailing."
Wincing back tears, she scoops the last glob
into a baggie. "When it cools off," she says,
"during a nice rain, like my mother & I did,
we'll make soup from all this fat."
by Andrena Zawinski