American Life in Poetry: Column 205


Memories have a way of attaching themselves to objects, to details, to physical tasks, and here, George Bilgere, an Ohio poet, happens upon mixed feelings about his mother while slicing a head of cabbage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

I can see her in the kitchen,

Cooking up, for the hundredth time,

A little something from her

Limited Midwestern repertoire.

Cigarette going in the ashtray,

The red wine pulsing in its glass,

A warning light meaning

Everything was simmering

Just below the steel lid

Of her smile, as she boiled

The beef into submission,

Chopped her way

Through the vegetable kingdom

With the broken-handled knife

I use tonight, feeling her

Anger rising from the dark

Chambers of the head

Of cabbage I slice through,

Missing her, wanting

To chew things over

With my mother again.

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 (c) 2002 by George Bilgere, whose most recent book of poetry is "Haywire," Utah State University Press, 2006. Poem reprinted from "The Good Kiss," published by The University of Akron Press, 2002, by permission of the author and publisher. Introduction copyright (c) 2009 by The Poetry Foundation.  The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.  We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.