Good, Better, Best

There were times you made it hard 
to come close, Mother: when a butter
knife hissed across the table  and you
threatened to return me to
where you really came from.

Then there were those times you 
pronounced your eldest granddaughter
 unworthy, because you couldn't understand
how anxiety could keep someone who really 
wanted to from getting a degree. 

There was the time you made me
walk behind instead of beside you
because I forgot the lines of music
that would have made 
performance flawless. 

Perfection is a cruel mistress,
Mother: when even a single hair 
fell into the stew or ragu, 
you'd throw out 
the entire dinner.

In your kitchen only  
one could be queen, fit
to salt or sweeten, make
bitter or make rise; pronounce
a mouthful good enough. 

To get there, I learned to hide
my tears, dice onions into count-
less piles; sizzle them with 
aplomb in my own pan, 
the heat all my own. 

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