“Clearing Out” by Marilyn Johnston, a poem from The Poeming Pigeon: From Pandemic to Protest, released in October 2021, by The Poetry Box, has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.
Please enjoy the poem, and feel free to leave a comment.
All summer long, I’d tried to put
our things in piles and give it away.
I wanted to walk into a room
and see blank spaces on the floor,
the table—enough to clear my head
of the clutter from under the bed,
where dust balls and shadows hide.
I emptied the dishes out of the hutch, found
homes for the silver, the glass-cut bowls,
everything the kids said they’d never want.
The only item kept—one set of dishes I vowed
to finally use. An extravagant find, bought
as a new bride, 44 years ago, after hearing
anything looks best served on white plates.
I wanted to have the joy around me,
like the mindfulness I practice reading
Mary Oliver’s poems, Karr’s memoir;
while I study the Oswaldo Guayasamin
prints on our family room wall—
all that’s left, soothing, pristine.
Nothing out of place.
And I laugh now, the preposterousness
of it all—that September night, while we
awaited the alert to evacuate the fires,
how I stopped to set the table,
just wanting to see the white dishes
one final time, against the glow
of the ochre-red, smoky skies.