Two Poems by CL Bledsoe

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My Sister Describes Cooking with Our Mom

It was her job to put the lettuce and other
veggies in a big pot of cold saltwater.

“We have to get all the bugs off,” Mom
would say. A school teacher and farm

wife, she knew where things came from,
that the detritus of the past had to be washed

free. My sister stole her best silver spoons
to dig a swimming pool in the front yard.

She was going to line it with trash bags.
Mom used to pay her a quarter to do chores.

Once, when no one else was home,
my sister got me to help move all the furniture

out of Mom and Dad’s room and switch
it with hers. When they returned, she refused

to switch it back. In the kitchen, frog legs
frying in an electric skillet for Dad.

My sister would eat pancakes with no syrup,
fried bologna with mustard sandwiches,

tuna salad, potted meat sandwiches. Helping mom
bake her birthday cake. All of this was when

my sister was little. By the fourth grade, mom
was too sick to cook much anymore. My

memories are fragmentary at best. I rarely cook,
myself.

I’m Never Going to Know You Now
from a line by Elliott Smith

You were young and bright, heart
full of butterflies, long walks
in the evening. A new boy at the movies
every Friday night. All grown, you tried.
What a disappointment life can be.
You opened your heart to the world.
but it forsook you, like a bad boyfriend.
But you kept going to his house, as if
this time, it would be different.
You had a bad husband at home,
one kid grown, two that needed you.
You didn’t have a choice. I was all noise
and runny nose, bored in front of the TV.
You were ice cream with onions. A walker
that didn’t help. I would scream in your face
and run and lock myself in the bathroom.
I didn’t have a choice. Now, you’ll never
know me. Single dad to a beautiful
daughter who looks just like you.
I don’t have your disease, so neither
will she. You might’ve liked me,
if you’d had the chance.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than thirty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, The Bottle Episode, and his newest, Having a Baby to Save a Marriage, as well as his latest novels If You Love Me, You’ll Kill Eric Pelkey and The Devil and Ricky Dan. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

Image: Steff-X-FR, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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