I remember mother washing mulberries before they went off,
first thing in the morning, to send to the neighbours. Or washing
our clothes in a bucket, whites, then coloureds, then socks
until the soap turned to slime. I remember her
dressing up food from previous meals and saving scraps
for passing strays who might linger to guard our house by night.
Upon our travels we carried little bags of tea, sugar, rice,
to save on bills and returned with whatever was going cheap.
She had me convinced my brother's trousers were fashionable
a year after he'd outgrown them. In summer she'd unravel jerseys
and begin to reknit. My father encouraged such thrift
as people who earn in cash do and mother knew there
was no recovering what was laid to waste.
So she gathered, pickled, stewed, cut lights
from old boxes, strewed her flower beds with
fish scales and egg shells and sacrificed
her siesta to shoo parrots from our mango tree.
Once she even made her own shampoo but that
didn't quite work.
I remember her saving insect-ridden flour, spreading
it out in the noonday blaze, until all that crawled
had crawled away. Old sheets turned
into shoe cloths and dusters, and 'good, strong
plastic bags' were saviours of her ripening fruit.
As children we didn't think the secret of her prodigious hands
was in a thousand things she'd transformed or stored away.
We took what she had to give and she didn't stint.
I speak with her monthly on the telephone now -
Am I wearing a vest, do I eat sensibly, then
she puts it down, thinking of the money I spend.
You needn't worry, mother.
Everything is saved. Nothing
is thrown away.