Sunday Poetry – Kitchen

31

I remember this as her kitchen,

the one room in our house where no one

questioned my mother’s authority—

her cast iron pots bubbling over

on the stove, cracked tea cups 

in the sink. How I hated

the difficult oven always hanging

off its hinges, so loose a clothes hanger

rigged it shut, gas range whose flames

leapt beneath fingers when I turned 

its knobs too quickly, floor tile

that never came clean no matter

how much dirt I swept from its

cracks. This was her domain—

kitchen for frying fish 

and stewing chicken, for rice

and peas, plantains and yams,

for grease and hot sauce and seasoned salt.

Only she could make that faulty

oven door stay, only she could master 

the fickle flames of the rangetop,

only she could make those worn dishes

and chipped plates fill a table

with food so rich and hot

my father could not complain. 

And though I am her daughter, this house

no longer hers, her body deep in holy ground,

I know she’d want me to save all this—

decades of platters and saucers, plates,

glasses—every chipped cup, tarnished fork.

Allison Joseph

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