The Sunday Poem: Georgia Santa-Maria... Love Poem for my Stove

A wood-burning cook stove is the total opposite of that funky electric Hotpoint you had in your first apartment. There are tricks to using one but once you know how, it becomes a partner in turning a cold room into a sweet-smelling, warm kitchen. No wonder they are passed down from generation to generation.
Georgia Santa-Maria is an Albuquerque native, born in the old purple brick St. Jo’s on Martin Luther King. Jewell Thompson, her 5th grade principal at Emerson Elementary, said that in 36 years of teaching, she was the worst kid she’d ever known. Georgia decided to take poetry seriously when her senior English teacher at Valley HS told the class that there had never been a woman poet worth reading. She has been writing ever since. She has been published in several poetry mags. Georgia currently lives in Belen.


Love Poem For My Stove

I know in my sleep your thunks and clunks
The early morning jumble, shaken grate
Last night’s ashes, falling down below
A metallic thump, the opening draft.
Swish-clunk, the damper being pulled
To open up the flue, suck the wind across
The newly crackling fire, quick
Warm the kitchen--then the house.
A morning ritual, the music of clanking lids--
The lifter close, the poker too, on
Hooks along a shelf.
Matches in a Christmas tin
With Chinese birds and prunus branch
Fireproof. My favorite iron pans,
Shining black, top the warming shelf.

Before my time with you, you raised
A family of seven children
Born to your warmth, Bathed
In your hot water. You cooked their food.
Made their home a happy memory.
The occasional panco calf or baby chicks
Kept alive behind, in beds or boxes--
Dogs and cats, and children too.
One day, my Greyboy woke up
Fur scorched and smoking
From his nap underneath you.

I remember 2 ex-husbands
Who never understood:
To start a fire, use small wood.
One always cut the wood an inch too long
For my difficulty’s sake, before divorce
Solved that and other problems.
When I was young, I chopped up
Kindling with my karate foot.
Now, in my arthritic days,
A hatchet does the job.
To bathe 3 dirty boys, took 7 gallons, boiling
And another 7, from the well and cold.
In winter, we moved the tub beside the stove,
Laid towels across the backs of kitchen chairs, to warm.
Modesty a least consideration,
Expediency and heat the goals.

You’ve cooked, God knows how many Christmas dinners,
Thanksgiving turkeys we raised ourselves
Canned a thousand jars of peaches,
Applesauce, tomatoes, chile
Warmed our hearts, our stomachs and our toes.
Last week, in honor of our 37 years together,
Longer than marriages, friendships, jobs--
I bought you a present. A new wood basket
Made in Africa, from another woman’s
Hands and sweet imagination, orange
And blue, green and cream--accessorizes you
Holds your kindling, waiting
Happily, for tomorrow morning’s fire--
The coffee pot, the clanking into
A new day, new life, bright and hot,
Sparks and crackling, cooking
Breakfast eggs and home made toast
With you, old friend, my green South Bend.

--Georgia Santa-Maria

Poetry submissions are welcome. Email theditchrider@gmail.com. The whole Sunday Poem series is available from the front page of the DCF by clicking on The DitchRider in the left-hand sidebar. Poems early in the series are archived under "previous post" at the bottom of The DitchRider blog.

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Tags: Santa-Maria

Comment by cece evola on January 17, 2010 at 8:00am
Thank you! What a beautiful poem. I was in your kitchen as I was reading.....
Cece
Comment by Margaret Randall on January 17, 2010 at 8:19am
I just love this poem! Here's to that brash school principle and the stupid teacher who told you no woman had ever written a good poem--if they urged you on to this. "No ideas but in things," as the great William Carlos Williams famously said. I felt I had a window on a whole life, really lives, just through reading this wonderful poem.
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on January 17, 2010 at 2:05pm
Oh yea!!!! so happy to see you and SB on DCF Sunday page. Love yr pic--damn woman, I love being in the same club as you: woman poet. Woman! Poet! Stove lover!
Comment by Georgia Santa-Maria on January 17, 2010 at 2:52pm
Thank you so much--Y'all have me floating around the ceiling this morning. Arfur says to tell everybody he's cutting wood to last for the next 2 weeks. Beautiful dry cedar, split and stacked. Think I'll make a pizza.
Comment by Patricia on January 17, 2010 at 3:44pm
YEAH! I love seeing you and this poem here!
Comment by Ben Moffett on January 17, 2010 at 10:48pm
Wonderful poem, Santa-Maria. We had a wood stove in San Antonio, NM until I was 12. Grate place :-). to warm up, with the oven door cocked open. There are outstanding women poets, of course.. Emily Dickenson, Amy Lowell, Joyce Kilmer come to mind. Wait! Not Joyce. XX Joyce And XY you to the head of the class. You are right about men. Cut once if you measure twice, but we never follow our own advice.. Thanks, Santa-Maria
Comment by Wendy Doenges on January 19, 2010 at 11:53am
I love it! Keep pen to paper you have a beautiful way with words. Brings me right to the places, feelings and smells that you describe. Beautiful!
Comment by claude on March 19, 2010 at 6:20pm
Georgia, iis that the stove you used to have in Anton Chico, or is my memory failing me?

I have an old cast-iron pot I've been honored to care for for 42 years (it was old when I got it) and have similar feelings towards it with its seasoning imbued by generations of countless meals.

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