27. Still Life with Dirty Dishes

The problem is, how to paint this so it looks beautiful—

because I know it must seem like any other sink

full of dishes. Maybe worse.


Avocado shells float through the wreckage

of lunch, bright orange macaroni clings to plates

jutting out amid half-hearted suds, and some pale

bloated noodles met their watery grave already

sunken below in a tangle of forks.


But you see, these dirty dishes

are the picture of time I didn’t spend

washing them, time spent instead

this afternoon on the couch, arms full

of napping daughters.


The three of us, combined like a crayon creature

my toddler would draw—three heads,

three pairs of arms and legs,

sprawling and intertwined.


I held my children there for hours

in the stillness of their sleep, wondering

what colors their dreams were.

Iridescent, maybe tropical I guessed

as I watched their eyelids flutter

like the fins of tiny fish.

— Ramona McCallum

Ramona McCallum earned her B.A. in Creative Writing and Literature from Kansas State University in 1999. She currently lives in Garden City, Kansas with her husband Brian McCallum, a ceramic artist, and their 6 children. Ramona works as her husband’s editor and artist’s assistant, and she also teaches 7th grade English Communication and Poetry at a local middle school. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Organization and Environment and Zone 3.

4 thoughts on “27. Still Life with Dirty Dishes


  2. Beautiful imagery. Thanks for making my least favorite kitchen task pleasant for a change!

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