The 2River View 25.4 (Summer 2021)

Karen June Olson

Summer in a Jar

Yesterday I followed a feeling as if it were a map,

a wind sweetened by yellow clover
winning the field, where my mother
as her mother before, planted seeds
by careful measures
timed by the first quarter
of a new moon.

I resisted work they claimed ritual,
clearing gardens choked with purslane
and chicory, our reddened skin brushed
by wings of bees, hours repeating
what was already said.

The days we'd dropped
cloves of garlic, sprigs of dill,
cucumbers, and boiling brine
into jars, how windows
closed with steam. Their songs
about summer in a jar.

Now rain draws me out into a wet yard
arms full of houseplants drunk with winter's gloom,
to see what is imperceptible, a lift of leaves
amid the wash—how my arms want
to reach skyward.


My granddaughter rocks her body
to rhythms in my voice and to stories
I tell her that were whispered
in my ears. Once
and happily, I say
                                       and then
there are times I forget
she is not mine
but of mine,
a simple mistake if I call her
by her mother's name,
the same slip
my grandmother
made with me. This tricked-up
memory of mothering
on occasion can make
my breasts ache.                                               
                                      What I know about love floats on periphery;
a grandmother collects rainwater
in a soup pot to soften
a child's hair,
a tangle of strings, comb's careful
part, slow twist
of braids,
a simple weave.

Karen June Olson is a poet and Professor of Early Childhood Education and the author of Living Midair (2River). She lives in a near century home with her husband and two cats.

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