The Kitchen on McGill Ave.

Hugh MacDonald

We were poor in the fifties
The dull green linoleum on the kitchen floor
grew duller under her scrub brush
while Cyril and I ran outside
and Anne Marie slept under the tiny maple
on the still grassless front yard.
Mother's days were long.
Dad was already playing Squeers
at Queen Square School
Mom had uncovered fire
from overnight ash and tossed hard coal
scuttled from the basement mountain
(whose dust coated everthing in our house)
on basement furnace and Enterprise Kitchen Range
she had no Fridge yet
--butter floated in a bowl
meat in coutainers, milk bottles
stood in sink water
she changed every hour
all summer long.
And no appliances either
our bread hand-mixed with flour
from the pull-out bin
whose nutty thick slices
we toasted black and smoky
at the end of a fork
above red hot coals in the stove
all meals simple and repetitive
fresh produce from the corner store
peeled and chopped with a single paring knife
potatoes, carrots, and a "good" roast cooked black
or fat squares of lean stew meat,
but always there on time
and no one ever went without.
The ironing board which dropped out of the wall
was shared with cousins from the country who
lived with us
(so they could go to school in town)
and boarders, who had Fridge, electric stove, a radio
and the Barbara Anne Scott doll my sister never did
and lived upstairs
(they helped to pay the bills
and buy the new washer)
laundry, she once washed,
kneeling beside a galvanized tub
and wrung by hand,
now slosh-sloshed
in its white porcelain tub
and was guided between white wringers
--one time her fingers got jammed
she pulled the emergency lever
and held them under cold water,
they swelled like fat sausages
but she didn't complain--
Things took a little longer
but everything got done
and there was no radio for company
silence the only music she sought
her favorite thing
she told me once
wsa standing on the back step
in the sunshine
hanging out our underclothes
in the frosty air
each steaming item
a censer sending up a prayer of thanks.

Copyright © 1996 Hugh McDonald
Used with permisson of the author.
From Looking for Mother, by Hugh MacDonald.
Windsor, Ontario, Canada: Black Moss Press, 1995.
(Dist. by Firefly Books, Ltd. Sparks Ave., Willowdale, Ontario M2H2S4
ISBN 0-88753-259-4 ISBN 0-88753-255-1 $14.95)
Email Hugh at hughmac@cycor.ca Hugh's Home Address:
Hollow Pine Cottage, Robertson Road,
Montague RR#5 PEI Canada, C0A 1R0

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