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Summer
2008

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Woman’s Work
Janet Barry

My day is spent in the company of good food
and the Palestinian woman I met in the morning paper,
killed by her cousins, shot, body dumped
on the heaped refuse of a garbage mound.  At school
her children hear, “your mother was a whore, your mother
was a whore, you are the son of a whore.”  I  bake squash,
peel apples for Thanksgiving pies, wonder
who cooks today for her grief ravaged widow,
wailing his wife’s innocence to the blank glare of newspapers,
the silent-wrench scorn of neighbors
their sideways stares through windows of fear.

My daughter and I line cake pans with butter, flour,
we swirl sugar and chocolate over a low heat. There is no place
in our wooden-spoon world for such things as cousins
killing cousins, such things as the word “honor” mutating
into the nightmare of murder, orphan daughters
left only with Hate to show them the ways of cooking, sewing,
how to open their wombs and breasts to new life.

Potatoes boil on my stove, starchy steam,
two loaves of bread taking their yeasty shape in the oven.
Her mother hugs a picture of a wide-eyed girl to her chest.
Her sisters wrap their scarves more tightly, lock their doors. 
Palestinian woman, mother, sinner/saint/victim,
you are welcome here as long as you like.  Lay down
your scarf, let your children play in the other room.
We will set the table together, light candles.
We will share apples and child-hopes.

Warm bread, fresh from the oven.