Please order from Old Seventy Creek Press at http://oldseventycreekpress.books.officelive.com/Julia.aspx. This small press is located in Albany, Kentucky.
I polish the utensils
one at a time—
knives, forks, and spoons
from my mother’s kitchen drawer.
Forgotten fork, long-pronged
I didn’t want it put
beside my supper plate.
What difference does it make?
my mother asked through the years,
but I still refused to lift it to my mouth,
sure that it would taint
the taste of the food.
Floral-patterned stainless steel implements,
bought through the decades
at the Roses Five and Dime;
and tarnished silver plate pieces
that were saved from my grandmother’s set
or unearthed when the garden was plowed—
all have waited to be caressed by me.
I finger the years
with a cotton cloth:
clean, rinse, and polish,
till I conjure my inverted image
in the spoons’ embrace.
In my mother’s kitchen
I sit near the wood stove,
shying away from other cold rooms.
Here she bakes biscuits
and boils pinto beans
and dries her hair
at the opened oven door.
In my early childhood
before the luxury
of a finished bathroom,
I took my baths at the wood stove:
buckets full of cold water,
kettles full of hot
that steamed as she poured them
into a galvanized tub,
the water cooling too soon
in the shadows of a winter evening.
It seems I am always drawn back
to this embrace of heat;
and as the pine wood hisses
and embers glow,
frost lacing the windows early tonight,
I sit at the wood stove,
close my eyes,
In some woman’s Ford—
I can’t remember exactly whose—
I slouched in the hot back seat
and nibbled warm Swiss cheese from a grocery bag—
too hungry to wait for dinner.
My mother and the driver sat up front talking
while the radio blared Volare.
forty-five years later—
when I hear that song,
I taste the waxy blandness of Swiss cheese
and feel the heat of a summer day.
I am a child again,
set apart in a stifling back seat,
impatient to get home,
bored with the unintelligible
talk of women.
The Appaloosa gelding at the roadside stable,
where a tourist could get a trail ride for two dollars,
was too weary to care where the trail guide led us
and too bored to buck when I nudged with my heels
its bony sides.
I thought to canter would be impressive
to the acne-scarred boy who led us into the woods
on his buckskin mare.
But he never noticed my posting,
or the new black boots I wore,
or the riding crop I’d gotten at Sears—
my English style so wrong for my Western mount.
The guide wanted only to get us back
to the dusty gravel parking lot,
where my father and mother waited,
impatient to drive on to Cherokee.