She sifts a handful of flour onto flattened dough
beneath pressure of the rolling pin, thinks of years
lived without creating a pie that pleases her mother
who insists Rita treat the crust with shyness,
touch it as little as possible. Apples from the Jonagold
tree in the backyard lay sliced and ready.

Middle-aged, unmarried, Rita wishes to meet
the mythological man whose instant attraction
will afford love without end, but she is compelled
as sole caregiver to forgo socialization and tend
night and day to her mother’s Alzheimer’s condition.
Her only romance occurs when she stirs hope
into the mix, embraces a bowl, a spoon, a saucepan,
aspires to become the perfect cook who can prepare
food to satisfy her parent.

Rita places the pie on the rack of a fifty-year-old
gas stove, sets the temperature at 350.
Her mother says Rita’s pies are never right.
They’re always a little too much or a little to less
of an ingredient that would make them acceptable.
Her mother’s objections loom in Rita’s mind,
criticism as real as a dirty spoon on a clean tablecloth.

She’s been ready for twenty years to receive
a stranger’s kiss, the one she only imagines
after years of anticipation and useless recipes.
She touches her lips with fingertips.
The pie is almost done. She wishes for a faultless result
and the possibility of a man’s arms around her,
such things can happen, although her mother
will never acknowledge their possibility.