WE SPEAK OF AUGUST
Alone in my kitchen, I copy
a chicken salad recipe from a
Woman’s Day magazine
and plan tomorrow night’s dinner.
We don’t know what will happen
between one raindrop and the next,
yet we speak of August as if it were a contract,
a promise the sky made.
When I was twenty-five I married a drummer
and silenced him with disapproval.
Now I’m married to a poet—
he reads poems on the porch
and pets my head like a puppy.
My daughters grew tall as honeysuckle and left—
they took their soft skin, their buttermilk biscuit smell,
the endless hungers that organized my days.
My domain has shrunk to the narrow bone of my ankle.
I did what was asked.
I did what I feared.
Like every woman I have ever known,
I became my mother.
I stroll through the rows of houses and yards;
above me a skein of geese break in and out of formation—
fluid as laundry on a line.
Other women are out walking their dogs,
murmuring to the mothers inside their heads.
In the eastern sky the first star is out,
preparing for the long night of wishes.
At dusk every flower looks blue.
from Rattle #34, Winter 2010
Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention
Valentina Gnup: “I recently moved back to the West Coast, after living in North Carolina for six years. Something about being in a new place again had me assessing my position in life—and that is where ‘We Speak of August’ came from. I showed it to my mother, and she had a few problems with it—typically when she disapproves of one of my poems, I know I’ve done something right.”