May Haw Jelly

By Mary Hood

Begins with picking berries from the swamp floor.
in the dark damp a child might fear.
Full Buckets of bending we can finally leave.
Then washing and sorting.
Fruit floating in the sink
like red rubber jack balls.
Then boiling.
Crushing and squeezing them
through the sieve of cheesecloth
until all the pink juice drips back
into the cast-iron pot.
More boiling.
Sugar and pectin over low heat.
The sweet cloying scent of ligustrum
on a stifling day.
A frothy lace ring like the hem of a slip.
Then filling Mason jars
and over the gel a thin layer
of molten parrafin to seal.
Because my father liked the taste
of the wild on his morning toast.