By Laura K. Deal


Rarely, yearly, by some magic
she would open the oven
beyond its usual limit
laying the door down flat
against the cupboards below.

Seated on her swivel stool,
hands encased in yellow
Playtex gloves, armed
with brush and Easy Off
she painted.
Not portraits, or landscapes
but long steady rows
of caustic paste that
abraded my nose unlike
any other smell ever
to dwell in the oven.

Her patience, uncomplaining,
astonishes me now,
though then it was only
one of the odd rituals
of adulthood, another reason
not to grow up.

After an hour,
the smell permeating the house,
the baked-on black
of daily dinner splatters
turned to goo, to be
dragged away on a paper
towel, brown sludge on white,
on yellow gloves
on my memory.

Inside the oven,
clean speckled gray walls,
smooth tracks for shelves,
all evidence of past
unpleasantness wiped clean.



Originally published in Mise En Poem.

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3 thoughts on “Mom’s Chore”

  1. I really love this poem, Laura. It evokes so many memories, smells, textures, and nostalgic bits for me. Lovely to read out loud, too.

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