American Life in Poetry: Column 647


Lois Parker Edstrom, a retired nurse, lives on Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington, and her 2016 book Night Beyond Black, from MoonPath Press, has many accessible and moving poems. Here's just one example.

Doing Dishes

She said she had always wanted to do it;
throw away dirty dishes rather than wash them

and she did, after breakfast, toss the blue, green,
orange, and yellow Fiestaware into the trash.

Transferring from New York to Germany
with her husband and children,

the movers coming that day, she chucked the dishes
in among the banana peels, egg shells, coffee grounds,

bits of bacon, paper towels and called it good.
What she could not know is that a young mother

in that very town received a much needed set
of tableware when her husband returned

home from work that evening. Bright dishes
that showed up chipped and grubby

like old friends with egg on their faces.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Lois Parker Edstrom, “Doing Dishes,” from Night Beyond Black, (MoonPath Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Lois Parker Edstrom and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.