Preserves

There is a mason jar
of strawberry rhubarb jam
in the pantry of the house we call home.

It is
and forever will be
one week older than our marriage
and neither is getting any younger.

We will never eat it
but still
we suspect we could
and because of this
on principle
we will never throw it away.

It was the very last jar
after we gave all the rest away,
after we picked and washed
countless quarts of berries,
cut and cooked and mixed
and mashed them together with all the sugar
and pectin
and compassion we would then seal airtight
beneath the lid
in the hope of keeping out
the smallest of unseen things.

Everyone tells us it was a wonderful act of love.

A decade later we retell the story to each other
and each remember it differently.
I remind you that you thrust a wooden spoon toward my lips
fresh from the cauldron
and said, Here, taste this.
How naively I obeyed
trusting in love, never hesitating,
and burned my lips and tongue so terribly
only to then discover
I was also allergic to something in the recipe.

You remember the inept way
I could not pick the lids
off the bottom of the pot,
how you had to show me how to do everything
and ended up doing most of the work.
Today we are older and wiser and more thoughtful.

We do more or less the same things.

It was your idea to make a jar
of hand-picked fruit jam
for every single guest at our wedding.
Then again,
I was the one
to tell you
it was such a great idea,
before the burnt tongue
and the anaphylaxis.

When compared to the bliss of falling in love,
physiologically,
the inflammatory response is only subtly different.

This is why the jar still sits
gathering dust on our pantry shelf,
the memory of this day.
It reminds us of the love we show
on our best and worst days,
our capacity to forgive
to own our mistakes
to kiss sweetly in the pantry
with all the soup cans looking on,
to make a fuss over burned lips,
to fetch an ice cube
and a glass of wine.

We trust that this last jar is still sealed,
that we did it right,
that if we opened it,
if we thrust out a spoonful and said,
Here, taste this.
That neither of us
for a moment
would hesitate.

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