We Were Bag People and Lament for my Late Cousin While Feeding the Dog, 2 poems by Marianne Worthington

We Were Bag People

Life is no knock-off handbag, no purse ordinary
as any K-Mart pocketbook. No. Worse. Life
is a brown paper bag, plainest container, what
my father called a poke. Run get me a poke
for these beans now.
My father talked like
a Hank Williams song: Life is a sack of shit
A&P store bags jam-packed
our slumping shelves—our lunchboxes
our backpacks our suitcases. Life is utilitarian
and pitiful sometimes, papery thin as bird legs.
Life is a grease spot in the corner of a lunch
sack, stained like a workshirt after second
shift. Life cracks you open with the same
rasp my father had at the end, rattling,
like somebody was trying to shake
something loose out a dirty paper bag.

long wooden table, red chair and blue chair
Our Table by Adam Levine.CC license.

Lament for my Late Cousin While Feeding the Dog

Standing at my stove now, I have become that part of you
I used to laugh at as I scramble eggs or poach a chicken
or boil carrots for my old dog. She snubs her bowl—
like yours used to—if nothing extra is heaped atop her kibble.
Like yours used to, my dog gives me the side eye, shuffles
off to pout in the hallway.

Remember how our mothers, our grandmother, could whisk
up a quick gravy to drizzle over a dry bowl of dog chow?
Remember how they saved back gristly bits of Sunday
roast to feed their dogs under the table despite our fathers’
hostilities? Remember how all our dogs jumped and sang
in our sunny kitchens? I can’t help it. I want all of us back
together, drinking Cokes and playing canasta, the linoleum spotted
with old dogs napping and dreaming in the sunlit patches.

Marianne Worthington
Marianne Worthington is author of The Girl Singer (University Press of Kentucky, 2021), winner of the 2022 Weatherford Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Oxford American, CALYX, Zone 3, and Swing, among other places. She cofounded and is poetry editor of Still: The Journal, an online literary magazine publishing writers, artists, and musicians with ties to Appalachia since 2009. She grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., and lives, writes, and teaches in southeastern Kentucky.

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