At the county extension service in the old downtown,
I spent after-school hours in my mother’s office—
the green-glass building next to the city farmers’ market

held in the parking lot each week—the entrance lined
with dark-stained oak cabinets, quarts
of tomatoes, the perfectly suspended fruit-flesh

in red liquid. Men holding Chinese food cartons
of soil, like purses, from their gardens and farms.
The soil needing to be fixed, the levels adjusted,

they’d puzzle over results laid out like blueprints.
My mother, a home economics agent, working
upstairs in the demonstration hall and kitchen,

the double-burner stove tops, the steaming silver pots.
In her hairnet, a lab coat over her blazer and
satin blouse. I sat in the chairs for the audience

with my homework until she called me up
to the platform to dip pH sticks to read the acid
contents. I’d slip the skin off peaches, level tablespoons

of salt for brines. My mother taught me
each step: the maceration, the strawberry-rhubarb
slurry heating to frothing, the sugar thermometer

rising to the gelling temperature of precisely 220
degrees. My mother pouring the fruit into scalded jars,
the room billowing with sweetness.

Copyright © 2017 Chanda Feldman. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.