Fall 2021 Featured Poetry

After I Left Home

My mother is up to her elbows in dishwater
and she is not pleased.

She checks the oven timer over her shoulder and sighs.
Twenty minutes until she can relax, soak her feet
in bathwater with only her ox red underwear on.
She wonders if her daughter would call today.
Perhaps the call will arrive when she is in the bath.

Damp and bloodied Band-Aids pile up
in one of her kitchen apron’s wrinkled pockets.
The vegetables are sliced, but at what cost?
Her fingernails are scratched, her hands
cut-littered, the pain pinching her nerves
under the burn of the dish soap.
The scars on the back of her hands
are deep and dark, like little ants
dotting cracked but clear sidewalks.
The knife is not her friend today, or any day.

The grease of lamb from the oven coats her face
in oil and the smell makes her sick. She swats the air.
She hates cooking. She hates eating.
She hopes that today, in twenty minutes,
her daughter would call.

I imagine my mother like this,
cooking a dish that only my brother and father will eat,
washing dishes, in pain, waiting—
and call.