Jane Hilberry

The Moment

In those days, Betty Crocker
always called for sifted flour, and so
in homes across America, women sifted.
When my mother’s mother turned
the wobbly red knob, hulls and stones
jumped in the wire basket,
but by my mother’s time
the flour was fine—
now women sifted to achieve
precision, purity, perfection.
It made the white flour whiter.
Then flour came in bags,
already sifted, and women stopped
making their own cakes and bread,
and didn’t have time anyway
for sifting. But for a flicker
of history, my mother stood
staring down the tin cylinder,
the moment shuttered
into tiny parts, slowed
by the fanning blunt blades–
nothing to do but watch
the perfection of time, falling
into the waiting bowl.

Jane Hilberry
The Moment first appeared in The Hudson Review, Fall 2003, and is reprinted from Body Painting, (Red Hen Press, 2005).