waitress poems

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

JUST BEFORE CHRISTMAS, 1968

When she hears her son
has died in war,
she goes to the kitchen,
fills the sink with
water and suds and

begins slowly
to wash the dishes.
Plate after plate, she

pulls them from the water,
washes them,
then lets them go.
She wishes she could remember

everything she's scrubbed
in the last twenty years--
baby bottles cleaned with
stiff burshes, spoons

and bowls and cast iron pots.
It's like breathing now--
Inhale--wash. Exhale--rinse.
Only this grief is new

and not knowing
what to do with it,
she drops it
into the warm grey water.

But she already knows:
This is one well of dishes
that will never be emptied.
Wherever she goes

she will remember
all that she tried to wash away,
all that stained her--

the milk line in the glass,
the half eaten vegetables,
the blood, the blood.

63 Comments:

  • Your poems are always so intense; I love the way you write.

    "Inhale - exhale" - I used those phrases in an old poem as well.

    By Blogger Anna Piutti, at 8:21 AM  

  • this reminds me of the scream,(the painting)it is a shock reaction, silent unrelievable hysteria, you start to wonder when the plate will smash and with it the last vestage of normality

    By Blogger Sue hardy-Dawson, at 10:40 AM  

  • wow, this is so sad, it literally made my eyes watery. you always carry so much intensity in your words. which is what i love about your poetry.

    By Blogger Lorena, at 10:45 AM  

  • You manage to tell a story with such depth in one activity. As always, powerful ending.

    By Blogger mermaid, at 5:34 PM  

  • That was brilliant, Patry. On first reading, my eye actually skipped over the title and I thought you were writing about something much more recent & contemporary - I pictured some American woman in her 40s or 50s who had just lost a son in the Iraq situation.

    By Blogger Gilbert Koh, at 8:12 PM  

  • Another strong one, Patry. You balance the complicated emotions so well. The grief, the dishes. The food, the blood. What else would one do?

    By Blogger MB, at 8:43 PM  

  • you have shoe-horned so much emotional power into a "mundane" moment
    astonishing

    By Blogger floots, at 8:22 AM  

  • hello patry
    thanks for posting that
    gives me something to think about when I face the dishes piled in the sink.

    By Blogger David, at 8:52 AM  

  • This is sad but with redeeming feeling of letting the moment go as it is.

    By Anonymous Danny, at 8:13 PM  

  • are all the poems here written just as posts? or are these pieces written elsewhere and then posted?

    either way, wonderful job.

    i love what you do

    By Blogger camera shy, at 9:07 PM  

  • I loved this. You truly see life through a poet's eyes.

    By Blogger Marc, at 3:30 AM  

  • powerful writing, vivid images of shock and grief.
    the ending was stunning.
    Love this poem.

    By Blogger dsnake1, at 4:07 AM  

  • Very powerful, Patry. I shall return again and again to read more of your poems.

    kevin
    'bigshoulders'

    By Blogger bigshoulders, at 10:28 AM  

  • grief in warm grey water . . .
    I will remember

    By Blogger Bill, at 1:17 PM  

  • I just thought you'd be happy to know you made the list of 100 Blogging Poets In 100 Days.

    By Blogger Billy Jones, at 4:42 AM  

  • with a son in the military, I can well imagine that I might go straight to the sink and begin washing dishes ... anything normal and routine ... a powerful, painful poem.

    By Anonymous Becca, at 6:33 PM  

  • This poem is just "wow" I write poetry myself but your something. When your book comes out in 2007 I want an autograph hehe. Happy Holidays, Peace & Love.

    By Blogger Zeljko Radinski, at 10:54 AM  

  • Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

    By Blogger Sue hardy-Dawson, at 10:09 AM  

  • Wow that's a heavy one! I like it alot!

    By Blogger rdl, at 9:26 PM  

  • Wow, a powerhouse of description.
    Looked for your Marvelous Garden but couldn't find it and had to come in through rdl's comment page.
    She's the one who invited me to the blog. Like getting invited to a little soiree dontcha think?
    Enjoy reading you.
    Where is the rest of the Race Point story or where do I pick one up? I'm actually a true crime afficianado.

    By Blogger Marewheeee, at 5:43 PM  

  • It is unusual for me to enjoy poetry that I find online. Yours was a rare thing.

    I am even a bit jealous.

    Tsk Tsk to me.

    G.

    By Blogger Rare Blue, at 12:09 AM  

  • happy new year, patry!

    By Blogger David, at 3:04 PM  

  • Just drop by to say Happy New Year Patry!

    By Blogger Danny Sillada, at 2:34 AM  

  • Excellent. Strong. Real.

    Thanks. :)

    By Anonymous Sara, at 10:38 AM  

  • very touching..

    By Blogger Stormy Zephyr, at 5:48 PM  

  • With the use of such a simple image, you managed to give me chills.

    It's hard to tackle large topics and traumatic images in poetry because it can come off melodramatic, without a story to provide context to bring it to life.

    But this... wow. So very real and full of impact. This is really good. It reminds me of myself, though, going about my day so normally after my mother died. I even met up with a friend and didn't mention she was dead, until my friend noticed I was rather robotic and asked how my mother was doing.

    By Blogger TwistedNoggin, at 4:24 PM  

  • unashamed to say that this made me cry. my son is a royal marine commando who is about to go to iraq. i pray that i don't find myself 'washing plates'

    By Blogger Cocaine Jesus, at 1:13 AM  

  • Are you ok- just busy I hope

    By Blogger Sue hardy-Dawson, at 11:01 AM  

  • Again. Well done. Very powerful. I knew I reviewed this site for a reason. I don't regret it!

    By Blogger Raven, at 1:50 PM  

  • shock mixed with loss. really well done.

    By Blogger Naiad, at 8:00 PM  

  • Just checked in here after a month of neglect to find all these lovely comments. Thanks so much for all your visits and your words.

    By Blogger Patry Francis, at 8:34 PM  

  • ohhhh Patry...this is soooo my god...I can't get into your other blog, but honey, it's zoetrope virtual studio, the writer's group on the internet...I'm sure you know about it, and it would be soooo great if you were there, anyway, sometimes, it's a bit....flame warish, but most of the time, it's warma and fuzzy and wonderful like you and this fine piece of work...xooxoxo

    By Blogger Patricia, at 10:48 PM  

  • I read this a week ago but didn't leave a comment. The imagery just floated around in my head and I felt speechless. Several times it's floated in and out of me and now I feel compelled to tell you so. I'm new to your writing, but will return for another and another fix. Beautiful poetry. This gripped my heart and wouldn't let go.

    By Blogger Bouls, at 11:28 PM  

  • wow! this is so beautiful! i going to create a link to you in the sidebar of my blog so that i can find you again and read more of your beautiful poetry!

    By Blogger la vie en rose, at 6:27 AM  

  • If more people reflected on the nurturing that we all hold in common, perhaps the outrage of war and killing would be less acceptable.

    By Blogger finnegan, at 1:18 AM  

  • Very good, very moving. I'm glad that your comment led me here! I'll be back.

    I think I've seen you around elsewhere too, maybe LittleLight or LateEdition?

    By Blogger Udge, at 6:27 PM  

  • So glad you checked in, really looking forward to some new posts

    By Blogger Sue hardy-Dawson, at 11:23 AM  

  • Hi!
    I enjoyed reading a terrific interview of you in blogland. This reaches deep from within everyday living to deliver a punch to the solar plexus. I can see why you are published and I look forward to reading more of your work here!

    I admired your entire poem, ageless in message, but the lines below caught in my throat as I read your work aloud and that brilliant ending left me keeled over. Oh, that ending will has left a permanent stain within me, as it should.

    "It's like breathing now--
    Inhale--wash. Exhale--rinse.
    Only this grief is new"

    By Blogger GEL, at 9:06 PM  

  • beautiful... in a bittersweet way.

    There are words that breathe!

    keep on writing! =)

    By Blogger Luanne, at 12:10 PM  

  • Oh my gosh. That was really moving. The everyday and how we just have to move through this everydayness with so much intense sorrow sometimes. wow.

    By Blogger Braidwood, at 11:59 PM  

  • Congradulations on your book.it must be a profound feeling to have your words in print and to finally be heard.Your poem is strong,elegiac and utterly a thoughtful mind evoking one.

    By Blogger Aelee, at 11:09 PM  

  • I really enjoy your body of work

    I will be watching for your novel

    By Anonymous scottyb, at 7:31 AM  

  • I think that poem is so beauiful, and so powerful. love the way you talk of her washing the dishes as a way of looking back on the past, and as a tool of dealing with stress. Mabye she's dealing with the stress by thinking about the past in her past?

    By Blogger RunAmokinPitts23, at 8:26 AM  

  • I am eagerly awaiting the next poem. Tick tock. :)

    By Blogger Raven, at 8:49 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Stormy Zephyr, at 8:13 PM  

  • hey
    just wanted to say tht i luv it

    By Blogger Kale, at 4:27 PM  

  • outstanding.. so glad i found your blog.

    By Blogger oxeye, at 8:42 PM  

  • Yes this is poem so intense ...the pain it seems just running infront of our eyes..The loss seems hers but a bit of it is here floating in the air like tiny mists floating with air

    By Blogger iamnasra, at 9:49 PM  

  • Hmmm, the painful simplicity of grief.

    I found you on the BloggingPoet list. Now I've bookmarked you, and I'll definitely be back.

    By Blogger MissTaken, at 1:19 PM  

  • Aw I thought you were back, humph

    By Blogger Sue hardy-Dawson, at 11:26 AM  

  • wowz

    d.i.

    By Blogger david raphael israel, at 7:41 PM  

  • Gulnaz had listed you as one of her blog friends..In tribute of Gulnaz we hope you can drop a line to tell us how were you inspired by Gulnaz

    By Blogger iamnasra, at 2:47 PM  

  • Wow! Very powerful. Food for thought. Thank you.

    By Blogger Lee, at 5:22 AM  

  • I lost a twenty-year-old son- not in a war, though; he was hit by a car as a pedestrian.

    "Casualty of traffic" lacks the political and existential undertones of "casualty of war"; still, the loss is real, and I dearly miss him.

    Your poem is powerful, and I thank you for it.

    By Blogger chuck, at 10:18 AM  

  • its been awhile since u posted hope all is well

    By Blogger iamnasra, at 1:42 PM  

  • "stiff burshes" is I guess stiff brushes. Let me add my voive to the many that are already here: Very well written, indeed. Bravo...

    By Blogger Rethabile, at 4:46 PM  

  • I love the imagery in this piece. Good work.

    By Blogger Ched, at 6:49 AM  

  • Such a great poem, such a simple image, simple act, washing dishes, but in the context of your poem, so powerful. Well done! You have not told us grief, but shown us.

    By Blogger jillypoet, at 6:35 PM  

  • I remember reading this over a year ago even before I checked the comment thread. This poem still lingers with the feelings I wrote of. You're an exceptional writer.

    *One hint and please realize,I'm the queen of typos: Only if it matters to you, there is a typo in your title: Christmas needs its spelling corrected. Personally, I leave most of my many typos and even grammos, in my blog! There's enough editing to do elsewhere sp I give myself that freedom to leave the typos in here. I don't see an email or I'd email you this info.

    Artistically,
    Gel { * * }

    By Anonymous gel (Emerald Eyes), at 2:03 AM  

  • I came via Rethabile. Love this. So very well done.

    By Anonymous Jo, at 5:20 AM  

  • Thanks so much to all who have read and commented on this poem. I wrote it probably 20 years ago, but it has always had a special meaning for me. I'm so grateful that it resonated with others as well.

    Thanks, too, to Gel who noticed the typo in the title! In all this time, I've never seen it.

    By Blogger Patry Francis, at 1:41 PM  

  • Thanks so much to all who have read and commented on this poem. I wrote it probably 20 years ago, but it has always had a special meaning for me. I'm so grateful that it resonated with others as well.

    Thanks, too, to Gel who noticed the typo in the title! In all this time, I've never seen it.

    By Blogger Patry Francis, at 1:42 PM  

  • stumbled across this by accident. this poem is amazing. i think it will, in some way, be with me forever

    By Blogger admin, at 6:46 AM  

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