Friday, July 23, 2010

I Get a Gold Star (Literally)


Imagine my surprise yesterday evening when I opened the day's mail and found the certificate pictured here from the California State Poetry Society. (Picture me skipping around a small kitchen.) The day had not begun auspiciously. I'd gone on a country walk with my poet friend Dianne and my half-century-old body had humiliated me. Sigh. Little did I know that THIS Waited In Store For Me.

I've shared this poem here before, but I'll reprint it so you don't have to go bouncing around to find it (meaning, so I don't have to go find it and do the linky thingie).


Poor Pleasures


In the ragged shack on the edge of the blue-oak forest
she stands barefoot in the kitchen lit by one bare bulb.
Threadbare blue jeans cling to the stems of her legs
the sleeves of the man’s shirt rolled up to bare thin arms
as she washes dirty old dishes in the rust-stained sink.

It is 5 o’clock on a spring morning and he is gone
to the oil fields. The chill in the kitchen is bone deep
but her bare feet are tough with years of poverty
and the floor is worn linoleum, dirt-brown gleaming
underfoot from the damp mop standing by the fridge.

Anyway the coal box by the stove is empty of all
but black soot. The water on the stove is just lukewarm
yet her hands sing with pleasure as she pours it out
to rinse clean dishes in the dish pan in the sink.
Even this small warmth is lovely on a chilly morning

The blackened glass over the sink reflects her face
unlovely and inscrutable, with one small scar adjacent
to that wide full upper lip where his fist came to rest
one night long ago, before he gave his life to the oil field
and demanded nothing but her food and narrow hips.

She dries the dishes with a muslin cloth hand-stitched
by her mother in the lamplight of her cabin, a flour sack
transformed to an endless use for dishes, a dowry
for a marriage tired before it even started. With a rag
she wipes the sink, untroubled by the rust today.

She wipes down the old stove and a song slips out
as she scours grease spots, at first a humming
melody, but as she turns with the rag to the tabletop
and wipes its red-checked oil cloth, the words pour
forth: amazing grace and one white peony in a vase.

23 comments:

Argent said...

Holy cow! No wonder you won! You've painted a terrific picture here! I was really drawn into that woman's world.

Birdie said...

Chris, congratulations!!! huray :-) the poem is beautiful ... it really is. hugs!

Ms. Anthropy said...

"CONGRATULATIONS!" Love the poem!

Titus said...

Woohoo! Great certificate, but a much greater poem.

Brian Miller said...

smiles. love hte verse...so descriptive...and congratulations! that is awesome!

the walking man said...

I bet as she wipes the table singing her song she is happy for the recognition you have given her Chris.

Erratic Thoughts said...

Good God...Many Many Congratulations!
Yayyy, what a feat!!
About your poem: You have picturized the entire scene so beautifully...I can imagine my self right there infront of her and those greasy oil spots(blotches carved deep into her life)and the way she wipes them out...:)
Poor pleasures indeed...

You deserve a huge applaud...
One memorable moment it is!

~Cheers
ET

The Bug said...

Congratulations! And the poem is definitely prize-worthy - I can see that kitchen & that woman clearly; can hear her singing.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Your award gave me goosebumps of happiness for you. You are an amazing poet and when I read your words, it's like you pulled them from the depths of a well called hope...

lakeviewer said...

Wonderous! Congratulations and best wishes for more and more success.

Titanium said...

Oh, Chris... this is beautiful. Congratulations on the award- you deserve many, many more of the same.

Monkey Man said...

Deserving of first place.

Magpie said...

I remember this piece from the original posting! Loved it then and love it even more now...it earned you a gold star! :)

Scott said...

congrats, and what an interesting read.

can I ask? what makes this a poem and nto a shrot story? I know nothing o fthe "mechanics/techniques" of poetry and story writing although I seem to have fallen in love with putting my ideas "on paper"

Enchanted Oak said...

Dear Scott: I don't know what makes a poem a poem. I'll go look.

TechnoBabe said...

What a nice award. Congratulations to you and the poem is excellent. I want to be content like the woman in the poem.

Andrew said...

A well deserved award. I really liked this piece.

Dianne said...

crikey! I don't know what to say, but congratulations! I could say more, but that is enough. We brought eachother both luck.

Keep it up, woman of the wild,
Di

RNSANE said...

Chris, your poetry is always worth of a gold star - or a heaven full of them. This one is so beautiful.

Lydia said...

What a fantastic poem, seeming almost like a play script to me it was so descriptive.

Frame that puppy!

Georgina Dollface said...

Yay! Congratulations. Your lovely poem reminds me of a Mary Pratt painting. - G
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Pratt

Carrie Burtt said...

Such a wonderful poem! You deserved to win! Your writing is always an inspiration to me be it prose or poetry! :-)

Syd said...

Wonderfully descriptive and moving poem. Congratulations on the well-deserved award.

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