Door County Writes: ‘Making Caramels’

Poetry by Amy Phimister

My sister and I are mixing 
mom’s caramels 
soft dreamy jewels.
We smell the syrup 
like burnt marshmallows,
stick our fingers in that milk 
lick them clean like we did 
as children
so sweet and tender in the mouth
the past floats in like a dream.

It wasn’t even the caramels.
The caramels didn’t matter.
It was the making.
To coat thoughts of loss,
remember our mother.
My sister is now a mother.
It hollows her out sometimes
like an old dry well.

It must have been the same
for mom,
little disappointments
a sour taste here and there
a missing ingredient or the wrong
one, a spouse,
children too busy
It’s tricky to make that recipe.
As I recall mom’s caramels 
were always hard, difficult to cut.

We melt the shiny butter
blend in syrup, brown sugar
constant stirring
watching like parents
careful with the temperature,
drop a bit in ice water
to see if the candy forms.

We think we have followed 
her directions, 
yet the caramels are not the same.
They are softer but just as delicious.
We sprinkle on powdered sugar,
carefully wrap them in wax paper.
The caramels are ready to eat
like silky little tongues of sorrow.

Writer Amy Phimister of Sturgeon Bay is a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (WFOP) and has been published by WFOP, Yardstick Books and the Ekphrastic Review. She was a finalist for the Hal Prize.

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