“I Was Charmed by the Dirt Road” by Marjorie Saiser

Marjorie Saiser


Two ruts down, down, leading
at last to the farmhouse.
I was charmed by your mother 
setting two dishpans on the table,
one with suds for washing, one in which
she stacked everything for rinsing,
pouring over all from the tea kettle.
I helped. I slipped into my role as
into an apron, drying the plates, cups, forks,
with a snowy white dish towel, embroidered:
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Perhaps she used
old raggy towels except when I came. When I came,
she killed a chicken in the yard, and when it was done
flopping, headless, she went to it and took its feet,
carried it hanging upside down, into the basement,
where she dipped it into a pail of hot water,
tore its feathers off in handfuls, held 
a newspaper torch under the carcass
to burn a few hairs off its skin,
cut it open on the table she had there,
took the guts out, pulled the lungs loose
from the rib bones, her fingers not lovely
but sure of their task, carried the chicken
upstairs, washed it, the dishpan so useful
again, cut pieces expertly with a thin curved knife,
rolled each drumstick, wing, breast,
in flour and laid it into the hot grease of a
cast-iron skillet. While it sputtered and browned,
she set the table, stirred up the biscuits
in a green glass bowl. I saw the array:
plates plain white and shiny, the cups 
waiting for their coffee, all the song of this,
the chorus, the riffs, and I thought
with some minor changes I could do it.

from Rattle #67, Spring 2020


Marjorie Saiser: “I was going to say this is a persona poem, but no, it’s me, a long time ago. In a galaxy far away. Distance is such a powerful thing.” (web)

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