Doing the Dishes, 1966
The farm wife filled the zinc with water so hot
it steamed. Then, plunged her hands in.
Glasses, first. Assorted sizes bought at farm auctions.
Then Melmac plates, bowls, platters,
with deep scratches and turquoise flowers.
Next, flatware, carving knives, serving spoons:
A delicate rose pattern, some with bent tines,
others with advertising on the handles.
Finally, pots and pans.
Burned bits of pork roast and fried chicken soaked,
while she washed the scarred kitchen table
where eight of us knew our place.
As they dried dishes with embroidered flour sacks,
she listened in on her daughters’ days –
jokes, bickering, small victories, jealousies.
From the kitchen window, she looked out
on a broken-down windmill, cornfields and a gravel road,
where distant trees marked neighbors’ farms.
In summer, she lingered as a breeze lifted the curtain.
In winter, as filigreed frost etched her reflection.
I was pleased to learn yesterday that this poem, which was held prisoner and in limbo for so long because of computer problems on the poetry site’s end, earned an honorable mention award in the 2013 Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest.
NATIONAL WINNERS & HONORABLE MENTIONS – Selected by Lisa Zimmerman
1st Place: “The Widd’er Woman” – Jessica Glover
2nd Place: “For wrapping trees in cellophane” – Xan Roberti
3rd Place: “Novena for the Nameless” – Kelly Lynn
“Phoenix” – James K. Zimmerman
“Doing the Dishes, 1966” – Julia Meylor Simpson
There were also 13 finalists in the category.
The poem will appear in their print publication, Off Channel, along with the winners and the finalists in all three categories.