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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Kitchen Music

by Jeff Walt

Friday nights my mother would slip in an 8-track
of Elvis, Patsy, Loretta, or Hank. We’d belt out
country hits and hymns, lip-sync Conway Twitty. I’d beg
to stay awake, cut in, scream the words,
a kid in flannel pajamas putting off sleep and dreams.
The men with us those nights—Vic and Henry
and Mac and Jim—would lift me with one hand above
old, torn linoleum, the smoke and laughter.
Mama danced the jig in bare feet and blue jeans,
hands in her hair—wild, like that feral cat we put down.
Her bra strapped to the back of her chair,
wearing her favorite T-shirt, PA Girls Do it Best.
I swayed in their discordant toast,
cheered my mother’s blue-black widow’s peak.
We’d croon “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Heartaches,”
each man louder and louder.
I puffed Winstons, sipped Schlitz, stole dollar bills
from their pockets. Ended up on my mother’s lap,
riding her knee. We laughed at nothing, cussed
because we knew God was listening, sang until
we were asleep on the kitchen floor tangled
in the hum of each others’ betraying arms.


—Selected for Honorable Mention in the competition for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2016, and first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); appears here with permissions from both poet and publisher.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Jeff Walt

won the 2014 Red Hen Press Poetry Award for his poem, In the Bathroom Mirror this Morning, which was selected from more than 650 entries. His chapbook, Soot, was co-winner of the 2009 Keystone Chapbook Prize and was published in 2010 by Seven Kitchens Press. Several poems from Soot were scored by composer David Sisco and performed at Carnegie Hall in 2014. Walt has been awarded writing residencies from The MacDowell Colony, The Djerassi Resident Artist Program, The Vermont Studio Center, and Kalani on the The Big Island of Hawaii.

His poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Poetry International, Inkwell, Connecticut Review, The Sun, Cream City Review, The Ledge, and The Gay & Lesbian Review, among others.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury