For These Thy Gifts

1. Warm Up
from jeans and flannel shirt
to frumpy homemade dress

family is not company
I try

put it on
my mother grits

itchy frills don’t
make the girl
underneath my breath

the oven buzzes

twenty minutes every year
from grace to opening drive

2. Kick off
good food
good meat
good God
let’s eat
my southern uncle
scores a laugh

the booze rolls out
and passing starts

what we know:
who tackles turkey legs
gets our respect

my Spanish uncle dives
for one crisp stick
my father clips his son
nabs the other one
earns my mother’s glance

three aunts tally points for
green bean casserole
yams and marshmallows
cocktailed fruit in red jell-o

the score sits tied

3. Half time
my northern uncle lays
his head on hands that splay
the crocheted cloth

someday my pool
face down beneath
the floating things

the dishes stop mid-wash
and whipped cream hangs
around a chilled red bowl

don’t feel that way
don’t talk like that
don’t be such an ass

the frilly itch goes on
beside the pumpkin pie

4. Time out
I’m sending back
blue-collar slurs that make me blush
taunts-to-tears about my weight
girdle garters sissy curls
do not send again

5. Overtime
laughs threats doggie bags
cigarette butts whiskey breath
bounty of worlds that end
one amen

Previously published in Carolyn Martin, Finding Compass (Portland, OR: Queen of Wands Press, 2011)

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Carolyn Martin

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has contributed poems and book reviews to publications throughout North America and the UK. Her fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, is scheduled for a 2019 release from Unsolicited Press. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal of global transformation. Find out more at

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