Saturday, March 19, 2016

The New Stove

Often, one sees a survivor from the past and wonders if anyone now remembers anything 
about who once lived there, ot touched that. This is a house I saw outside St. Ignace, Michigan,
while we were on our way back to California from one of our long sojourns
in the Michigan woods near the Tip of the Mitt. The steeper pitch of the roof
gives us some idea of the winters here.
And the beautiful weathered grays of the wood
cry out to be rendered in watercolor.

The New Stove

The old one, ungainly, out of place
    sits by the back door, sides
streaked with old meals, buttons
    carrying old fingerprints
away --- tomorrow to Union Gospel.

It was my mother's stove, our
     companion for fourteen years,
collaborator on how many meals!
     Burners black and still, oven
going cold in the weather, dead clock

deader still. Once it was her
     new stove, hers for a year
before her death at forty-five ---
     clearly not good enough to keep
her alive, but good enough to 

carry me this far, to forty-six
     in this kitchen where I sit
dreaming back and forth, consulting
     that dead clock and those
dark burners with no news of food ---

only memories going back to a day
     in winter, when the stove, unnoticed,
became ours. I remember the last 
     drive to the hospital, my father
driving, my arm over the seat

to hold her hand, holding as if pulling
     her along, holding as if keeping her
from falling some great distance ---
     towing that dry hand all the way.
I remember how my arm went

numb, how I wanted it to sleep
     and hurt, to somehow pay and buy
her back with stupid pain. There was
     her dry hand and her eyes
and that drive going on and on

yet too short. And there was that truck
     of junk leading us --- old refrigerators,
old stoves, battered and rusty --- which
      I tried to stare away but it
continued, bearing its trite symbols

of the obsolete, our culture's silly
     signs of death, and all the while
her new stove waited at home,
     shiny, guaranteed for 
years and years to come . . .

Vern Rutsala

Backtracking, Story Line Press, Santa Cruz, 1995, pages 43, 44.

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