Poetry Wednesday – Mother, Washing Dishes by Susan Meyers

I couldn’t find too much about Susan Meyers online when I first began looking, but while I was looking up her biography, I came across this column and project by Ted Kooser, funded by the Poetry Foundation, called “American Life in Poetry.” All 370 columns are archived and available to read on the project’s website. After scanning through some of the poems there were a few that I immediately liked, like Column 362 – “Fish Fry Daughter”, Column 241 – “Like Coins, November”, Column 168 – “The Laughter of Women”, and Column 16 “Love Like Salt.” I can tell that American Life in Poetry will be a place I return to again and again to read poetry. Each poem is accompanied by one line of biography and one light of insight from the amazing Kooser. It’s everything you need. You can sign up to get the poem emailed to you weekly.

I’m glad Susan Meyers led me to “American Life in Poetry.” Her poem “Mother, Washing Dishes” was featured in Column 267.

Mother, Washing Dishes

by Susan Meyers, featured in “American Life in Poetry”

           She rarely made us do it—
we’d clear the table instead—so my sister and I teased
that some day we’d train our children right
and not end up like her, after every meal stuck
with red knuckles, a bleached rag to wipe and wring.
The one chore she spared us: gummy plates
in water greasy and swirling with sloughed peas,
globs of egg and gravy.


           Or did she guard her place
at the window? Not wanting to give up the gloss
of the magnolia, the school traffic humming.
Sunset, finches at the feeder. First sightings
of the mail truck at the curb, just after noon,
delivering a note, a card, the least bit of news.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by the Univ. of So. Carolina Press. Susan Meyers’ most recent book of poems is Keep and Give Away, Univ. of So. Carolina Press, 2006. Poem reprinted from Tar River Poetry, Vol. 48, no. 1, Fall 2008, by permission of the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation.

One thought on “Poetry Wednesday – Mother, Washing Dishes by Susan Meyers

  1. I am trying to find a poem about dishes that hung in my aunt’s house. Here is one if you’d like to add to the collection:

    Thank God for Dirty Dishes
    They have a tale to tell
    While other folks go hungry, we;re eating very well.

    With home, and health and happiness,
    we shouldn’t ever fuss.

    It provides a stack of evidence;

    God is very good to us!!

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