As a girl I gathered the gooseberries
effortlessly and helped my mother bake the pies.
I knew just how much sugar was needed
for the berries—and I could sense
their taste by lightly squeezing them
and measure the tautness or softness
against the sugar. I was always right.
Women paid my mother to have me
make the pies for their festival
offerings or weddings or homecoming feasts.
The dough was so supple under my hands,
I rolled it to a thinness that was like
finely-woven cloth and so smooth,
so fragile and responsive like the skin
on the inside of his arm
that never saw the sun
and had no rough hair covering it,
that place where biceps rested
against the side of his chest,
the place where my head lay
as I pressed my palm to his thigh
and dreamed of the oven baking,
from out of my hands.
There are many Elaines in Arthurian legend. I wrote this poem 8 years ago, and I don’t remember which one I had in mind–but probably the one who loves Lancelot, though he never returns that love.