Stones never seasoned an empty pot,
yet somehow our empty cupboards
filled my mother’s Dutch oven.
A handful of dried rice and chicken bones
from the night before, a carrot or two –
my mother’s ceramic broiled and stewed.
Her hands dyed from thorn bushes by the tracks,
a patch of clovers she picked from beneath.
Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary,
no more sweet fruits or burdock root,
but somehow simplicity made all the difference.
She’d have me collect small pebbles
while condensation dripped down her face,
sweat from the heat of July
and the drought of our neighbor’s garden.
She’d gather change from the sofa cushions,
mostly pennies but sometimes a quarter,
and bring back a leg or two. She’d strip
the bone to spread across six bowls
of soup, and we would be full,
our noses running from a bit of spice.
The liquid would cling to our tongues
the way we’d cling to our mother’s waist,
and I would begin gathering new stones
for tomorrow, my marble rocks simmered out in the pot.
Matthew Gilbert is a recent graduate from the M.A. program in English Literature at East Tennessee State University. He has served as the 2018-2019 editor of the student-based literary journal The Mockingbird. His work has appeared in Echoes and Images, The Mockingbird, The Red Mud Review, and Delta Poetry Review.