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I Stop Writing a Poem
by Mary Jo Balistreri

Waking early, I go upstairs to "a room of my own."
An idea tugs. It's quiet, my imagination afire.
Suddenly, from below, a voice hollers up,
"Honey, where are you?"
Of course, he knows but wants me with him now.
Not later. And not even a poem can stop
our small kindnesses to each other.

When I walk into the kitchen, he greets me
with toasted slices of homemade panettone.
"What were you writing?"
"A poem. I was writing a poem."
I want to ask, "Couldn't you have waited?
You knew I was writing?"
Instead, I place red napkins next to each plate and light
a vanilla candle. My husband layers the wicker basket
with a white napkin, bread warm in its folds. Walking
between place settings, the child I used to be walks
beside me, remembers how her mother prepared
the first family ritual of the day: pouring milk into
a glass pitcher, setting a blue willow ware plate under
the bowl of oatmeal, turning the radio dial to classical.

I realized I wasn't just one age, but every age
and my mother speaks to the past as well as the present.
If you're going to do something do it the best you can.
Otherwise, don't bother. Did she know that creating
a beautiful table was a poem in itself?


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