My mother saved up for years to
Buy the kitchen table
Custom made: medium tint, thick cut oak,
A matte shellac surface
And an extra shelf underneath;
Choices agonized over.
The piece is strong and smooth but
Not without its imperfections:
The wood has tough, dark knots –
If you look at one too long you
Might see a dark brown iris, a pupil –
And faded imprints of
The surfaces could show me the
Old answers to new problems,
But I no longer do my homework at the table
And the answers are rarely on its surface anyway.
The table hosts nightly dinners for
And talking about the hard things –
Uncle Ed’s debt,
Doctor Karen found another melanoma,
Debates over the hanging painting:
Whether the object in the foreground is
An orange, an onion, or cheese
And whether the window looks out onto
A river or a road.
Sometimes when I can’t find sleep
I tiptoe to the kitchen table, sit,
And lay my left cheek on her table,
Its holey, warm wood:
Strong, imperfect, soft.
Shayla Partridge, Age 17, Grade 12, Hunter College High School, Silver Key