Catherine Pritchard Childress

Sustenance

     
   

The passed-down silver serving fork pierced
ground beef, egg yolks, tomato sauce,
delaying the inevitable meeting between
Mother’s seasoned hands and supper. 

I burned to lace my fingers with hers,
knead the bowl’s flavored flesh
with scarred knuckles, feel albumen slip
through fingertips like a housewife’s dream,
bind the pieces with leftover crumbs.

She palmed the mixture to an oval loaf,
keeping the mess for herself. I readied the pan,
set five Dresden places while she rinsed
the egg-white glaze from her wedding ring,
watching its luster wash down the drain.

     
           
 

Even after Dark

     
   

                  A Response to Claudia Emerson’s “Pitching Horseshoes”

Never content being my wife you seek more
in the pages of your books. Offer yourself
to the white sheets you scribble on, then revise,
blotting out any chance for me to hold you.

You spend hours at your grandmother’s desk,
between me and the coffee mug you painted
green with red cherries, forever reaching
for what sustains you through all-nighters,

leaving me to slip from your side into the shade
of the oak tree out back, where I built a flowerbed
for the first birthday you celebrated in this house. 
Hosta, Impatiens, and Bleeding Hearts submit

to weeds that thrive under your neglect,
roots holding on tight. Your reading lamp glares
from your bedroom window, asserting
your coveted solitude, casting just enough light

for me to see the stakes you drive me to night
after night, trudging the length of the pit,
hoping for a ringer, always adjusting my grip,
deciding when to release, when to hold on.

     
           
 

Pedicure

     
   

When I asked for red, He motioned to a palette 
of nail polish—Dutch Tulips, California Raspberry,
Malaga Wine, An Affair in Red Square. My only task
to choose—to decide what this man will stroke
on my canvases when I lie back into the bulky arms
of his chair, slip my small feet into a burning basin, surrender
to his skilled hands, versed in exposing tender layers.
I offer him ankle, calf, shallow impression behind my knee,
barely hear his exotic chatter while he kneads away pain
of late nights spent at the kitchen sink, throb
of high heels striking sidewalk and stairs. I nestle deep
into his strong arms as lithe fingers smooth neglect,
nurture muscle, flesh, render feeling full to my fiery toes.

     
           
 

New

     
   

I chose them from the produce bin, sifted
for the small ones, tiny enough to cook
without slicing---fingerlings to bulk up
my recipe, saved for an afternoon
when no laundry, husband, children, or book
called my attention away from oil, thyme
red wine and flour thickened to a roux:
boneless chuck roast cut into bite-sized cubes
dredged and browned, flavored with yellow onion
petals, garlic bulbs, ribbed celery hearts
baby-cut carrots and new potatoes—
young, delicate, paper-thin skinned, soil-specked
fresh harvest, evidence of winter’s end
wrapped in my hand like a child’s prized marble.

 
     
           
 
   
     
 
      return to poetry
 

Catherine Pritchard Childress lives in the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee where she teaches writing and Literature at East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, Louisiana Literature, Connecticut Review, Still: The Journal, The Cape Rock, Town Creek Poetry, Stoneboat, Kaimana, and Kudzu Literary Magazine among other journals, and has been anthologized in Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee.