for my mother
“Fill a saucepan, wash potatoes, peel, cook. Eat potatoes.”
Obey a different voice… how?
When it’s time, my own time.
Believe it, before the white page.
Can’t I obey a different voice than hers?
Turn, change, choose, transform?
Believe it, then show before the white page.
Set new tasks and wait for faith.
Turn, change, choose, transform.
When will it be time, my voice, in earnest?
Settle in faith and wait, and in the meantime:
fill a saucepan, wash potatoes, peel, cook. Eat potatoes.
When it comes my time, my own, will I know it?
She always shushed my well-earned voice: “too loud.”
Fill a saucepan, wash, peel, cook potatoes. Eat potatoes
I forged a self against her ways.
Now she has died across this poem–
I’ve no one to make a sound for.
I did forge a self as she aided and defied it.
I clasp her jewels, her furniture, her orphaned things.
I’ve no one to write of, or to, or to make a sound for.
Mystery of how she saw me went to her grave.
I have only the things she left, no direction.
And all I write is aloneness in our aloneness…
The mystery of how she saw me went with her
and the journey ahead, still unfound.
I have only the things she left me, no direction.
Fill a saucepan, wash, peel, cook potatoes. Eat potatoes.
Marilyn E. Johnston Is the author of two full collections of poetry published by Antrim House Books, Silk Fist Songs (2008) and Weight of the Angel (2009). Her chapbook, Against Disappearance, won publication as a Finalist for the 2001 poetry prize of Redgreene Press, Pittsburgh. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including MacGuffin, South Carolina Review, Poet Lore, Worcester Review, and Rattle and has garnered six Pushcart Prize nominations. She has enjoyed two consecutive long-term careers, one in Cigna corporation communications and one in public library work which included poetry programming for the public. She retired from the library in 2017.