Sunday dinner, July 1985


the pressure cooker prattles

on the avocado stove

while I help Grandma

set the table for ten.

All is green:

speckled linoleum

vinyl tablecloth

tiny flowers rimming plates.

I stack Roman Meal

and sneak a lick of Country Crock before she sees.

Grandma rolls thick dumplings

for the simmering chicken

and cuts them with a butter knife

before dropping them into golden broth.

I love their rich pillow softness

with sharp pepper and salt.

I look out on the garden:

corn reaching tall

tomatoes vining wild

cantaloupe spreading wide.

Our sweet and savory sides.

Grandma turns sheet cake

into Mississippi Mud

with chocolate icing and pecans.

I steal just one nut

and fix the ragged hole with my pinkie.

I turn round and round on the bar chair

kicking my legs

waiting for the family

Sunday dinner to begin.


Ode to a Daylily

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Father’s Day, age sixteen

I cut you from the roadside

and mingled your bright orange stars

with lacy queen anne from Grandpa’s field.

I placed you in a blue crock

on the table set with cloth napkins

for my first full course dinner:

southern fried chicken and heavenly ice cream pie.

So proud.

Your cheer matched my heart’s joy.

June, age twenty-eight

on an impromptu county road walk

with my two sons, one newborn in the stroller

I captured your beauty on film:

swathing roadsides in brilliant color

shouting to the whole world

your orange glory, and I remembered

He is making all things new.

Day of Atonement

A sixteen-year-old girl weeping

in the dark basement room

I didn’t understand

God watched me

through the ceiling

as if it were the cover

of the golden mercy seat.

If I could have sensed anything beyond

overwhelming pain

I would have breathed in

fragrant prayer incense

felt flicked sacrificial blood

trickle down my forehead

glimpsed Yahweh’s great glory

as the bright cloud settled above me

between cherubim’s shining wings.

Instead of tears for food

I would have tasted sweet manna.

I would have traded despair

for Aaron’s budding staff of hope

with healing leaves

from the tree of life.

Today light floods the dark room inside

as my Father rips the thick curtain

top to bottom.

* I referred to these Scripture passages in this poem:

Ex. 25 & 40, Lev. 16, Ps. 42:3, Mt. 27:51, Rev. 22:2