Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Jill McKeowen #14 Potatoes

To my mother

So many years I’ve wanted to say
I’m sorry for those nights
when I’d come home from uni,
showing off new passions,

accusing you being oppressed,
of not knowing at the stove,
of cooking dinner every night
without question.

You sighed, lifting the lids
of steaming pots
while I insisted outrage
at gender role imbalance.

Leave me alone!
you cried.  All I want
is to get these potatoes cooked!
Rare tears disappeared

in the heat (you never cried
in front of us). Too close for comfort,
I blamed the patriarch.
I knew everything then.

Now I understand your division
of labour, tied to its time
and all you knew, kept us
warm and plainly fed.     


  1. Many things I'd like to say sorry to my mother for, too, now that I understand better – and it's too late. You paint a powerful picture here, and it's a wonderful conclusion, which the language of the poem matches perfectly.

  2. thanks Rosemary, you're very generous. I'm glad you like the end - it was a quick decision to lop off 2 last stanzas, less being more..

  3. I really like this poem a lot. And see a lot of myself in both the daughter and now, too, the mother.... I really like the ending too. It's the sort of poem that's good to leave a bit open ended I think - all that ambivalence and the messiness of families...I think it's good for this to be echoed in the form.

  4. Reminds me a little bit too of Seamus Heaney's beautiful poem to his mother about peeling potatoes together. I think it's in his 'Clearings' sequence.


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