I Will Speak

I will speak of a rolling pin not as a maker of pies
but as a keeper of memories, a teller of tales.

I will touch the handles and know
that a young bride first touched these handles
carved in the quiet Quebec evenings by her youngest brother
the one left behind, a young man of the forest’s gift to his sister.

He chose the tree with care.

I feel in its smoothness the loving hands of the maker
its knothole the darkness of impending loneliness
its sturdiness the strength of the young man
who day after day brought logs to the river, freed logs from jams.

I will speak of the love that brought this bride westward
of my grandmother who packed her gift
in a hip-lidded trunk filled for the future
and boarded the train heading away from her woods and rivers
into a land where trees are planted for windbreaks, not cutting
A place where the resonance of language echoes strangely in her ear
where Trés-Saint-Sacrement is substituted with Saskatchewan.

A young bride who picks saskatoons not blueberries
Who rolls pastry with the rolling pin carved by her brother
and buries her own knothole of loneliness in everyday busyness.
A young wife in love, whose love
bears three daughters, Marion, Ella and Irene
I will speak now of her family who made the wheat fields home.

I will speak of my mother, Irene
And walk with her to the rhubarb patch my grandmother planted
watch as she severs leaves to decompose in earth
gathers ruddy stocks in the largest leaf, washes them under the pump by her kitchen door
and makes pies.

I will sit, dipping rhubarb in sugar as she rolls
and tells tales
She begins “Your grandmother used to say
‘When making a rhubarb pie add the sugar required, close your eyes and add more’.”
Then in her voice of memory “When your grandmother came out as a bride she brought ….”

Today, I stand at my kitchen counter rolling
I speak of memories and I make promises
“When your hands are big enough you too will make pies
You will touch the hands of your great-great grandmother,
of your great grandmother, of me and of your mother.
You will keep memories. You will tell tales.”

~ Marion Brooker

Marion Brooker grew up on a farm in southwest Manitoba in the house her grandparents built. When the barn was recently demolished and the house under threat of the wrecker’s ball it caused her to wonder whether her childhood home was not now the happy memories she has carried with her. Her book Noreen and the Amazing No-Good Horse is based on her memories. Marion has written for educational radio and is now completing a creative non-fiction book for young adults based on letters home from her 17 year old uncle who was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Her poem “Vimy” is based on her travels to World War I sites. Marion lives in Edmonton with her husband and happily surrounded by family, grandchildren and their pets.

“I still use the rolling pin mentioned in the poem ‘I Will Speak.’ It was my grandmother’s. It has a knot mark in its surface that I dream will be my trademark for the pies my grandchildren love. We tend not to tell our stories unless we have an object to relate to. I will pass this rolling pin on. It is a story teller.”

Read more of Marion Brooker’s poetry:
An Anthem

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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