for my mother
Yours was the best. Daddy said so,
as did Sunday company, prize-winning
authors, and members of the cooking club
who came to your silver-laden Southern table.
The texture: ideal, crumbly and melty.
The flavor: rich and mysterious. No one
could ever guess the secret ingredient,
unique to your creation.
You cannot serve dinner now,
cannot stand long enough to cook.
Your hands no longer stir
from weakness, no longer write
recipes—or poems—for the trembling
We sit together in your small study.
We reminisce… remember the time someone
introduced you at a university conference as
the woman who made the best cheesecake.
They didn’t know about your summa cum, your poetry or
paintings, or the time a Mississippi newspaper
branded you a communist for your work in civil rights.
I think of asking you for the recipe,
but if I ask, you will too gladly give.
I’m not ready to take it from you
any more than I’m prepared
to have you taken from me
After you go to sleep, I drive to the “super,”
walk the aisles of massive freezers,
cornucopias of cold. I find it, buy it, and
bring it home, where I settle it gently
on your mother’s buttercup china plate.
There the cheesecake waits
I dust it with cinnamon, bless it,
and take it in, one bite
then another, chewing,
savoring, swallowing—and again
Working my way, one soft, creamy
serving at a time, I take it in,
where I want you to be:
where death cannot reach you,
where you cannot leave without
my permission, where I might
shield you from the ravaging
of your body, the rending
of our world.
Ysabel de la Rosa’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals, and her feature writing in 45+ publications in the U.S. and abroad. In 2018, she was awarded first place for creative verse by the National Federation of Press Women. Her photography and poetry appeared in the award-winning anthology Her Texas. Her publishing career includes editing, translation, and book design.