I have yet to break
all my hand-thrown
bowls and pitchers.
They are clay heavy,
too much for aging hands.
I wonder how long until
my poems test mental acuity.
Things don’t always move in grace
when a body sheds its objects.
I once imagined my life boiled down
to a backpack, you know—binoculars,
bird book and laptop. But now there are
the pills and the need for a good
mattress and my fat address book
with too many names blacked out.
The Ocean of my Kitchen
Alone in the ocean
of my crowded kitchen, family
at the elbow, I stirred soup,
chopped vegetables and fed the mob.
My gorgeous, honey blonde niece from California
set a glass of chardonnay in front of me.
The drink helped keep me smooth,
but not really flying.
I worked as if I were
in a televised chef’s show,
at least that’s what my relatives said.
I kept going on love and fear.
Love for family and fear of
their adult reality—those sticky interiors
that seethed and bubbled
like the pot of turkey soup.
One wrong switch of the stove burner,
one wrong word from brother number three
to brother number four
and dinner would be on fire.
I didn’t realize my niece was going blotto,
totally drunk by eleven, sobbing out her
twenty-nine-year-old struggles. The whole damn
family reunion was a smashing success.
Joy McDowell is a poet with a foot in two boats, her hilltop home in the Willamette Valley and her estuary home beside Kentuck Inlet in Coos County, Oregon. Both of these settings slide into her poems about people.