Thursday, March 03, 2005


It's rare that I come back to something I've written with a few months or years of perspective and still like what I once thought/hoped was a masterpiece. But I pulled out IWU's literary magazine from 2003 and ran across this struck me how much of myself I buried between these lines... (unfortunately the spacing is off because I can't figure out how to make Blogger recognize my tabs. I gave up trying to mess with it...comment if you can tell me how!)

He has come to our house today,
worn out and weary
from the teaching
and the healing
and the praying
All he wants is a hot meal, a place
to wash his feet, to rest for a minute
and this is exactly what my sister can give him.
She bustles about—setting the table, tidying
(messes I’ve made),
stirring soup, baking bread
—and I want, truly I wish I could
help her. My stomach knots a little
when she turns, and I see the resentment in her eyes.
But the last time I tried, the bread tasted like soap, I tracked
dust all around the table and spilled
vegetables, expensive ones that we had to throw
to the dogs. So I sit at his feet and bite my lip,
sure that I’m in someone’s way.
Dinner will be perfect
under Martha’s direction, and our guest
must wish for a moment of peace.
He appreciates her so much,
and me—instead of contributing
to make him comfortable, welcome,
I become just one more who’s following him around,
until suddenly he stops, and looks
down to me with warm eyes and a reassuring smile
that says I accidentally ended up
right where I’m supposed to be.
I am speechless, because instead of
thanking my sister for the bread and the soft place to rest,
he gently scolds her
and tells her that all her bustle is
unnecessary, that instead I chose
well, and he is pleased
with me.
My gaze shifts
downward, not ready to accept
the kind words of praise,
sure that when he leaves,
Martha will be back in the kitchen
working, not saying a word
but splashing the dishwater in spots all over the dirt floor,
replacing pots on the shelves with extra ferocity.

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