Historically, the hearth was a stone or brick-lined fireplace used for heating and cooking food. Because the hearth was an integral part of the home, usually its most important feature, the word became synonymous with the meaning of home. We still center ourselves around the kitchen. How many of us, during a party will meander through a house until we are standing in the kitchen with others? The kitchen could be considered the heart of any home.
“When I am in the Kitchen” by Jeanne Marie Beaumont uses a stream-of-consciousness style as she goes about her business in the kitchen, looking at and using objects that are closely linked to family and memory:
When I am in the Kitchen
I think about the past. I empty the ice-cube trays
crack crack cracking like bones, and I think
of decades of ice cubes and of John Cheever,
of Anne Sexton making cocktails, of decades
of cocktail parties, and it feels suddenly far
too lonely at my counter. Although I have on hooks
nearby the embroidered apron of my friend’s
grandmother and one my mother made for me
for Christmas 30 years ago with gingham I had
coveted through my childhood. In my kitchen
I wield my great aunt’s sturdy black-handled
soup ladle and spatula, and when I pull out
the drawer, like one in a morgue, I visit
the silverware of my husband’s grandparents.
We never met, but I place this in my mouth
every day and keep it polished out of duty.
In the cabinets I find my godmother’s
teapot, my mother’s Cambridge glass goblets,
my mother-in-law’s Franciscan plates, and here
is the cutting board my first husband parqueted
and two potholders I wove in grade school.
Oh the past is too much with me in the kitchen,
where I open the vintage metal recipe box,
robin’s egg blue in its interior, to uncover
the card for Waffles, writ in my father’s hand
reaching out from the grave to guide me
from the beginning, “sift and mix dry ingredients”
with his note that this makes “3 waffles in our
large pan” and around that our an unbearable
round stain—of egg yolk or melted butter?—
that once defined a world.
Write a poem about your kitchen or the items in it. Do you have recipe books or pots and pans that have been passed down to you? Is there a chair eased to a place of sublime comfort that is none other than your favorite spot? Describe what is rich and meaningful in your kitchen and create poetry from these things. Share it with us in the comment section below.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here is a poem by Ken we enjoyed:
Photo by Laura Henderson. Creative Commons via Flickr.
Browse House & Home
Browse more writing prompts
Browse poetry teaching resources
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland
- Poetry Prompt: Misunderstood Lion - March 19, 2018
- Animate: Lions & Lambs Poetry Prompt - March 12, 2018
- Poetry Prompt: Behind the Velvet Rope - February 26, 2018
Forwarding Address Requested
Many homes have
housed these bones,
walls and floors
like arms and laps,
ghosted with the echoes
of lives lived within,
where the setting
becomes part of the cast.
See these dwellings as people
the shape and carry of them
in mind’s eye,
miss them each as much,
when they are gone
as aunts or uncles,
or lovers turned cold.
taken through packing,
pallet and postal change,
is a grieving,
change of chapter
in the story of ourselves,
close and lock the door,
drop off the key,
turn the page.
—by Ken Denk