“My Mother Explains Why She Never Voted” by Meryl Stratford

Meryl Stratford


after Wallace Stevens, “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm”

Silence can be a plan
rigorously executed
—Adrienne Rich

Your father said it had to be a Democrat
but I liked Eisenhower, the look of him,
what he did during the war.
Your father was so sure of everything.
How could I be sure of anything,
knowing my vote would cancel his
or double it? It wasn’t worth the argument.
Every day we read the headlines.
There was a war going on,
but not in my house.

The house was mine, and he was my honored guest—
hot meals on the table, clean sheets on the bed.
The house was quiet and we were calm.
Everything outside was his, the car, the job,
political opinions. We divided the garden.
He planted the vegetables, and I grew the flowers,
lilies of the valley, tiny blood-red roses.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of its meaning.

All the time I was making beds and doing dishes
I kept telling myself stories.
Imagine—a woman in the White House!
He never thought he’d live to see
a man on the moon.

Poets Respond
November 8, 2016

[download audio]


Meryl Stratford: “My mother never voted and she’s no longer here to explain. Two news stories started me thinking: a local woman, 100 years old—about the age my mother would be if she were alive—born before women had the right to vote, casting a vote for Hillary; and 41% of people not supporting the same candidate as their spouse have had an argument about it.”

Rattle Logo