Poem introduction

I remember how when my mother died, my sister and I had the task of disposing of her property. Both of us wanted to keep the ordinary, plain, wooden kitchen table, not for any aesthetic reason, but because our mother could almost always be found working or sitting at it, making dinner, eating dinner or just talking. In the event, I agreed that my sister could have the table, but the following day, as I was cycling to work, a poem about it came into my head. It was the whole poem and it needed very little revision.

The Kitchen Table

In memory of my Mother

Making a home was
what you could do
best, and cookery

(the ritual at
the heart of it) you had
a kind of genius for.

So what I first
recall, thinking of you,
is a creamy table-top,

the grain etched
crude and deep, the legs
stained black, and you

at work, with rolling-pin
or chopping-board or
bowl; then later

presiding over
guests or children at each
day’s informal feast.

Your homeliness
displaced now, what survives
for me of it

is this: which
now becomes a model
of true art:

bare boards scrubbed clean,
black, white,
good work as grace, such

purity of heart.


from New and Collected Poems (Carcanet, 2012), © Clive Wimer 2012, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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