Family Recipe

by Jeanie Tomasko

They say I was born in a cold spring, the morning
after my mother put up twelve pints of violet jam.  

They say all night it thundered without lightning
and right away I wanted whatever was in the white

pocket of the doctor’s coat. They say I was born
with extra layers of seal fat and fine black hairs

on my back. No one knew I would swim
early, swim away before I could even walk.

No one knew you would come with me
through the undulating tendrils of kelp

where we met in a dream and couldn’t wake up.
One of your eyes was violet, the other sea-green,

the other I can’t say. The complete stories of those
days are inscribed on the rose-colored sand

at the side of the sea. They say it takes five lapfuls
of violets for one jar of jam, a dram of sugar and a spell

said backward. The recipe warns: simmer violets overnight
in white tea. They like to remember the night I was conceived;

they always say: dew came early on the petals; birds
were singing in the dark. Everything went wrong.