Carol Grametbauer

Vitis Mathematicus


In the farmhouse kitchen my grandmother stands
at the stove, stirring, stirring, steam rising
around her on this warm September afternoon:
the Concord grapes are ripe. Sterilized
jars drain on towels on the counter.

She's miles and many years away
from that fresh, sun-washed June morning
when she stepped onto the dais
on the Ohio State campus to receive
her degree in mathematics: she'd thought

to teach, before a husband and two children
intervened.  Yesterday she picked
the grapes, added one shining blue globe
after another to the growing pile
in her basket.  This afternoon she's cleaned them,

subtracted grime left by flies
and robins, subtracted the stems, emptied
them into her big enameled pot.
She's cooked them to the proper softness,
strained them through her jelly bag, subtracted

skins. She's added the sugar, added                          
a bit of cinnamon.  As she stirs, more
grapes are ripening in the heat of day:
the work seems to multiply.  When the syrup
thickens, she'll remove it from the heat, divide

it into the waiting jars, add melted paraffin
to each.  Now she stands at the stove
stirring, gripping her long-handled spoon
as if sugar and steam, gleaming jars,
dark purple fruit were their own education.


Final Harvest


Faded now and yellowed
at the edges, slipped free
of its black paper mounts, the photo
lay loose in a box we brought  
home years ago, after we sold
the farmhouse. The smiles  
they wore that autumn day
masked struggles now
behind them—parched years

when they faced foreclosure, the winter
William nearly died of whooping cough,
the fall the barn burned. A spark
lit dry hay. Only gratitude shows
in their weathered faces: she cradles
long-necked squash, so large her two hands
barely span them; his gnarled fingers
encompass an Indian-corn bouquet bound
with string, fat brown potatoes streaked with earth.

The labor that began when late frost
nearly took the young pea vines and rabbits
ate the tender greens now come to this,
the storeroom full for winter.
All those days of endless hoeing in the blazing
sun, fighting off the crows and woodchucks,
keeping long rows watered, deer flies nipping
at their necks, now come to this,
this final harvest, their broad and grateful smiles.    


The Poetry Weaver


The anchoring line —
in the spider's web, the bridge —
is cast first, buttressed
so it can support the weight
of all the radial threads.         

Then comes the patient,
studied labor, back and forth,
the meditative
weaving of gossamer silk,
mindful gauging of the spans

between rounds. And last,
placement of the sticky threads
that spiral inward
toward the hub, aimed at snaring
something winged and wonderful.

      return to poetry

Carol Grametbauer writes poetry in Kingston, Tennessee.  She is chairman of the board of directors of Tennessee Mountain Writers and had a 25-year career in public relations.  Her poems have appeared in Appalachian Heritage, POEM, The Cabinet (published by Potomac Review) and the online journals Still: The Journal and Maypop, as well as in Remember September: Prompted Poetry, edited by Patricia Hope. Publication is pending in The Kerf and in The Southern Poetry Anthology: Volume VI-Tennessee, to be published by the Texas Review Press in September 2013.