With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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My husband killed himself in our kitchen,
a wide-open room with a forty-gallon barrel
of water standing close to the old woodstove.
Beef stew was simmering in the pot
when he shot a bullet
into his head and dropped spread-eagled,
his blood seeping slowly across the cracked linoleum.
Thirty-nine years later
I still can’t mop my kitchen floor.
Every now and then, when the dirty paw prints,
drops of spilled juice, and shadows
of rain-wet soles become too much,
I drop to my knees and with an oversize sponge
scrub the vinyl, tile, or plank oak.
I start anywhere and finish somewhere else.
Every place I’ve lived is the same —
it holds tight the stain of a mortal sin
committed in an old farmhouse
in the middle of a cold Colorado spring.
No one knows this.
When friends gather in my kitchen
and someone drops a cracker or a bit of cheese,
I say, Oh, just throw it away.
You don’t want to eat off my kitchen floor.