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Mom's Box Grater
Barbara Simmons


After she died, I wanted, more than the cameo brooch she’d pin
to every lapel, her box grater, that precursor, of sorts,
of all food processors, the rectangular metal box that shared
four different ways of slicing up the world. Her deeply veined
hands would set the grater on the kitchen table, waxed paper spread
out to catch the shredded, sliced, slivered pieces of whatever foods
had needed whittling down. Carrots disappeared before my eyes,
returning when the grater lifted, curled adornments for a salad,
stewing vegetables for the brisket Mother’d boil until it fell apart.
Even with a size that never spoke of domination among the kitchen tools,
the box grater was what I’d been wary of. I’d seen my mother’s
fingers bruised after a bout with it, entering the ring of preparation,
anticipating minor wounds. It was a tool I’d graduate to, fluent
in its metalled Braille, knowing which opening—oval, half-moon, plank—
translated best the food to recipe. My first abraded fingers felt
as if I’d been awarded medals, understanding that my
taming foods was one of many ways Mom was preparing me
for life, fingers raw and chafed that still presented a full hand.

© by Barbara Simmons.
Used here with the author’s permission.

Barbara Simmons grew up in Boston, but now lives in San Jose. A graduate of Wellesley, she received an MA in The Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins, and her work has appeared in numerous publications. Now retired after a career teaching secondary school English, Barbara says she savors “the smaller parts of life and language, exploring words as a way to remember, envision, celebrate, and mourn, always trying to understand more about humanity.”




Post New Comment:
So descriptive and heartwarning--about a box grater AND much more!
Posted 11/22/2021 07:23 PM
Very good poem! I, too, have a box grater!!
Posted 11/21/2021 02:47 PM
Lori Levy:
Never heard of a box grater. Fascinated by the grater and this poem.
Posted 11/21/2021 01:53 PM
We have a box grater hanging on our kitchen tool wall. I am afraid of it.
Posted 11/21/2021 11:32 AM
Gilbert Allen:
A vivid, heartfelt poem.
Posted 11/21/2021 09:40 AM
Compassionate and lovey metaphor of a daughter's love and supreme respect for her mother.
Posted 11/21/2021 09:37 AM
Fun. Barbara Simmons works in the necessary-but-vulnerable hands to bring her poem to a strong conclusion.
Posted 11/21/2021 08:37 AM
Larry Schug:
Another great illustration of how we are surrounded by poems and everything teaches us something if we just pay attention.
Posted 11/21/2021 08:16 AM
Lovely sentiment, lovely language. The things we cherish.
Posted 11/21/2021 07:06 AM

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