I walk around the small tribal
welfare cabin Kookum
had lived in, searching
for her grinding stones.

On hot August days
we would sit for hours grinding
chokecherries, pits and all.
She would hum or sing
softly in Cree, put the mash
into small patties on cookie sheets,
cover them with screens
to keep the birds out,
set them on the cabin’s low roof
to dry in the hot North Dakota sun.

In the dead of winter, she would soak
the dried patties overnight,
then fry them in bacon grease,
add flour and sugar,
the small shack filling with a tangy
sweet scent, and summer
flooded my every pore.

I take my grandkids berry picking,
they complain of heat, mosquitoes, ticks,
twigs catching their braids.
I wear my apron, make a pouch
to pick the low hanging berries
with one hand and toss them in
like Kookum did.

Kneeling before the flat rock,
braids tied back,
smaller rock clasped in hand,
I pound the fresh berries
pits and all.
Grandkids want to try,
and soon the rock is singing
my grandmother’s songs.

Copyright © 2021 by Denise Lajimodiere. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 24, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.