Domestic

by Allen Weber
FreeWrights Peer Review
Third Place, February 2012
Judged by John Timpane


Dress and underwear drape a ladderback chair. Unpinned,
hair sweeps the flour-dusted butcher block. Released,
her grateful breasts rebound from every straight-arm thrust.
She’s shaped and covered balls of dough; they’re left to rise.

Hens cackle in the yard; through the window she takes
a trembling aim, mouthing, Bang. Bang. Two town boys fall
behind tall grass at the edge of the road, alive
to violate her chickens—more sling and stone.

Punching down the yeasty dough, to rise again, she
recounts a life of slights and crisply ironed shirts—
words so florid, the tabby flees his square of sun
that’s warmed the beaten heartwood pine. The floor replies

to burdens, shifting foot to calloused foot. She spies
husband and son, descending from a further field;
their strides measure her time to re-dress, leaven bread,
wring a rooster’s neck, and wipe the mess from her hands.


What a sweet, concrete, finished work. So much is so good: the sturdy rhythmic base of (to my ear, but I could be wrong) iambic hexameter, or at least a six-stroke line; excellent line-ending and enjambment action; very light touch on the domestic’s awareness of her hard life, boiling down to the phrase slights and crisply ironed shirts (a joy to read aloud, like so much of this poem, which surprises, being so concrete, with its musicality), and otherwise letting her experience of her moment speak for itself; the sense of a restrained but infinitely humane sympathy in the portrayal. The final note, in which she realizes, once again, she must get ready to serve yet others, closes tightly and wonderfully. --John Timpane

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