Annie Fitch’s Duck Sauce
I must be prepared to sit
for hours, the same
as ever, to speak heart-to-heart, or just chat.
The main ingredient’s time.
Because Annie’s 89
when she tells me how I should mix
molasses, spices, sal soda,
duck drippings and orange zest,
some of her part of the talk
concerns elders, needless to say,
whom she often recalls with humor
but more often with elegy.
She too has gone away
as I summon the recipe,
and yet she appears as the minutes
crawl and the fixings seethe,
redolent, dark as tea.
Her uncle George MacArthur
made railroad ties with an ax.
Her father Franklin skippered
the venerable steamboat Robert
H: once ice had broken,
she towed great booms to the river,
then men drove the logs to the ocean.
The pan, cast iron, old-fashioned.
is one Annie handed to me
no more than a few months after
her husband passed away.
He and I crouched to wait
for the ducks of a favorite slough.
We never told anyone which.
We haunted that place, we two….
But I was speaking before
of Annie, who, as I listened,
seemed almost a force of nature,
on the good in any person,
in the meanest one in existence,
or the saddest situation.
At last the sauce has thickened.
These days dear Annie’s a figment.
She’s gone, repeat, not here
to test the spice in the mixture,
which causes my eyes to water.
I could have listened all year.