The Churn

I wrote this poem about my Granny when she was about 95, based on memories from my childhood and beyond. I hope it gives a feel for how her generation lived.

Granny aged 94 – pencil drawing

Splash, thud, splash, thud
Like the paddles of a Mississippi steamer
Steady, rhythmic, beating time, lento
Now the sound marks the final stage
The last carefully choreographed steps
The dance? Its churning day

In the kitchen, listening, feeling
As she turns the old wooden handle
Splash, thud, splash, thud
Only a few minutes to go
She knows the dance so well
Created it perhaps
Still she stops to check

The milk had stood in its basin
As the cream rose to the top
She had skimmed it off, gently
Sometimes she blows across the surface
Sometimes she uses a flat spoon
The cream had stood in its bowl
Now it is ready, the churning begun

The rhythmic beat grows slower, softer
Two more little glances under the lid
Just to be sure
On the paddle the small clumps
Have started to form
Soon the paddle stops

She washes her already clean hands
Pin-head oatmeal to remove the soap
The super-clean hand reach into the churn
And draw out the golden butter
In a wooden bowl she kneads it
Forms it into shape
Wraps it and stands it on the pantry shelf

Granny always made the best butter
Rich, smooth, soft and tasty
So much better than mass-produced
We children always knew that
Expectant we’d listen
Splash, thud, splash, thud
Like the paddles of a Mississippi steamer