Making Butter by Diane Wahto

In the kitchen with the low windowsDiane Wahto

my fat grandmother grinds away

at the brown wooden churn. The wattles

of her arms move in rhythm with

the clack of the heavy paddles.

I watched her then, savored the sour

smell of butter, took for granted

that a woman would work this hard

for food. Her overloaded heart held out

for years. She cooked, cleaned, bleached,

laundered, starched, ironed, mended.

Bathed eight children one after the other

in a common zinc tub. Every Sunday

she dressed up twice for church. Black dress

with the tiny white flowers, black hat

balanced atop her grey hair, wound in a bun.

In the end it was her brain, tiny vessels bursting

silently, a slow conspiracy of displacement.

My mother, Pearl, the child of disappointment

became third person to my grandmother.

My grandmother became Susan once more.

     ~ Diane Wahto

Diane Wahto is a retired Butler Community College English instructor. She, her husband, and three dogs live in Wichita. Her three children and five grandchildren live in Lawrence and Shawnee. Her poem “Crossing Highway 66,” will appear in Reflect and Write, a text for high school students, in spring 2013.


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