My Father-in-Law’s Dishes


I am in a kitchen in Ontario
And the house is packed in
With family and around with
Snow, and even more so by
Farmland and emptiness. It’s
March, my mother-in-law’s birthday
A day we’ve made as a holiday
Because it makes sense to
Celebrate in the middle of
Winter in the middle of the
School year so that all can
Come without interruptions to
Holier days.

And we eat turkey around the
Pool table, with all the
Chairs assembling from the
Scattered bedrooms in this
Rambling affair of a house and
My brothers-in-law Duane and
Greg have puzzled together the
Plywood cover for the table that
Duane built for us to eat on and which
He’ll leave there for
The Duration because,
I’ve noticed, it bothers him how my
Son bangs the balls around.

And we demolish the meal that took Henry
Days to prepare, we demolish it in
20 minutes, which is less time than it took
To make the gravy.
And the kids want to leave the table,
But I don’t let them. They fidget.
I recognize the twitchiness in my
Own memory, eating around the
Brown card table in Granny’s
Icy basement.

Karen and I clear the dishes,
And there’s the scraping into
Compost, and rinsing into
Sink strainer. I prefer my
Garbage disposal at home, but I
Can work with this system.
My father-in-law nibbles on bits
As he packs up the food. There is
Turkey carcass everywhere.

I move the dirties from one, and then
Another area of counter and wipe them clean.
Now a dry towel down here, for the wet dishes, and
Another on my shoulder. And one more, for
Colin to join me.
That counter is dry and no, please,
No more dirty dishes there. I wipe it down again.

The hot water
Fills the sink
And the soap.
I begin with the
Least dirty plates,
Front and back.

By the time I get to the pots and the pan I am really very
Tired and the water is sludge and I thought perhaps I could
Make it on one sink this time but I didn’t so I
Let it all out, the filth,
And rinse the porcelain sides with my hands. Bang the
Basket into the trash.
More hot water.
The leftovers are stored in plastic.
The twins are sitting on Duane.
A dog rushes down the hall after a ball.

The sink fills again and
I keep going on,
Washing my
Father-in-law’s dishes.

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