My Mama Gives Birth


My mother’s big wooden flour bowl, chipped
but proud, sounds like the inside of a whale’s
rib cage when she plunges warm kitchen hands
down inside a cold nest of sweet, thick buttermilk
into a bed of all-purpose flour. I watch and ask
no questions. She teaches without lecture, sniffing
the air to check the heat from her oven.

A small handful of shortening into the nest,
no spoons or cumbersome utensils. This is not
surgery, but delicate massage, feeling the flour
fall into thickening milk, caving into the mix
from the sides, birthing like a glacier into that
fabulous muck hole, oozing between her fingers
as she delicately mixes a quicksand of sorts,
widening its territory until the feel is just right.
Not too much, not too little. Her school tells her
when to quit.

She lifts the wet mass onto a lightly floured board,
like powder for a baby, being ever so careful
not to overdo. She looks me in the eyes for a sliver
of a second, “You feel it and you know.” The old tempered
soup can, a hollow conduit for cutting perfect biscuits.
Her quick, sure hand pushing the hungry metallic lips
into the dough, a quick twist of the wrist and out they pop,
one by one, laid to rest on well-greased skillet surface,
placed into a 500-degree incubator until you know
they are ready.

John Dorroh may have taught high school science for a few decades. Whether he did is still being discussed. He managed to show up each morning with three lesson plans and a thermos of robust Colombian. His poetry has appeared in about seventy-five journals, including FeralNorth Dakota Quarterly, and Selcouth Station. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.