I have always been a little preoccupied with retro — the retro housewife, that is. Her casseroles, her pearls, her picket fences. I collected old Good Housekeeping magazines, 50s etiquette guides and tattered cookbooks, not to learn how to be the perfect wife and mother, but for research. Every poet has a muse, and mine for the longest time was June Cleaver. My (poetic) June Cleaver burnt the pot roast, fantasized about the mailman, and generally forgot to get dressed beneath her apron. She saw me through my years as a disillusioned housewife (indeed burning multiple meals), and helped give voice to the frazzled mother of the not-Beaver (you know, the boy whose shirts aren’t perfectly tucked in, the boy who says, “Aw, gee whiz, Mom,” as he lights a match just to see what happens). Not surprisingly, following my separation after an 11-year marriage, June began to fade away.
Enter Mary. Yes, THAT Mary—O Holy Mother, O Blessed Virgin—the antithesis of the suburban single mom (who, by the way, is a Methodist). Apparently, Mary wanted to take a walk on the dark side. I kind of see her as the modern mother’s “every woman,” giving voice to the truths many of us are afraid to utter. This poem is a result of one of the first “conversations” Mary and I shared.
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Mary Buys the Refrigerator Repairman Flowers by Jill Crammond
He says he is a good man,
and she believes him—
the heavy boots, the scent of restoration.
She has spent a long time being a mother,
knows how to lean in a doorway,
how to hand over the right wrench,
how to kneel and be thankful.
He tells her he will see
if she has power,
if her couplings are poor,
if she has any resistance.
This is the electricity portion of our house call.
Mother of the Ice Box.
Mother Most Frozen.
Mother with a Tiny Light Inside.
While his head is in the freezer
take out your kitchen scissors,
trim your dying bouquet.
Strip the stems, slice the old thorns,
pull off each brittle petal until only your face remains.
Oh, Queen of Handymen.
Oh, Blessed Homemaker.
your eyes in the crevice of an ice jam.
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Jill Crammond is a poet/artist/single mother of two, funding her passion for poetry and feeding her children by teaching art & drama at a small independent school by day, and composition to students ages 19-90 (ok, maybe, like, 60, not 90) at a technical college by night. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming in a variety of journals, including Extract(s) Volume 2, B: An Anthology of Barbie Poems (Kind of a Hurricane Press), Wordland 2: Hi Honey, I’m Home (theEXAGGERATEDpress), and Fire on Her Tongue: e-book Anthology of Women Poets (Two Sylvias Press).
For more Mary poems, please visit the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project where she voluntarily (!) wrote 30 poems in 30 days as a fundraiser for an amazing small press. Jill also occasionally blogs and poems (it’s a verb!) at jillypoet.wordpress.com.