by Isabella Gross
I’m tired of stirring this pot
of boiling milk.
It’s not boiling yet. I stir
so that it doesn’t scald.
It’s like a riddle: if you shouldn’t cry
over spilled milk, what do you do
over scalding milk?
My whisk is hilariously short,
like a toy from a kid’s kitchen
& the tips of my fingers are hot.
They’re boiling, bubbling
melting like mom’s face
when she gets an MS hug.
I stop stirring. When it stops
swirling, it forms a white skin
so thin I almost don’t see it
until I plunge my whisk back into
the milk. It’s so not-boiling
that it needed a blanket.
I don’t know what burnt milk
smells like. Maybe it smells like
being born underneath a kitchen
table. Maybe it smells like the
Polish recipes that my grandfather
didn’t teach my mother to make.
Maybe burnt milk tastes like saying
“I love you” to your eight children
in your native language that isn’t theirs.
Does every drop of this milk
remember that it belonged to one cow
before the farmer poured every drop
from every cow into a big metal tank?
Does every 26 drops of Mom’s blood
remember that it came from Scotland?
do they pass 48 other drops in her heart
& press their lips together
because they don’t know how to greet
the other red blood drops in Polish?
How much of my mom’s blood has
to be American for her body
to stop fighting her?
She stands in front of
the stove, stirring. I am
50% her. She makes polenta
with four cups of milk
and so much mozzarella
that it’s sour. She never
writes down her recipes
& they never come out
the same way twice. One
day, they will be ghosts
on my tastebuds
and even though I make
everything with my hands
like she does
I never know when
the milk will burn.