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Catherine Anna MacDonald

Catherine Anna MacDonald

Catherine MacDonald is the author of Rousing the Machinery University of Arkansas Press, 2012) and winner of the 2012 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize. Her work has appeard in Blackbird, Crab Orchard Review, Washington Square and other journals. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Bric-a-Brac

In what then shall the ornamentation of rooms consist?
—Edith Wharton, The Decoration of Houses
In her middle period my mother painted men's heads, Tuesdays,
at the local ceramics shop with her best friend June. She made

these men as pretty as girls. The brave black sea captain in slick
oilskin. A blue-eyed Irish rover, his cap set with clovers. The blonde

firefighter, whose cheeks flushed from the flames. Were there others?
I've forgotten. Glazes and rags, brushes and paints, stashed

in a tackle box, off limits to her children. Each piece took weeks
to finish, to stroke on fine lashes, aim a spot of silver in the pupil

to animate the eye. Then to the kiln, once, twice, to harden this beauty,
burn it in. She carried them home in cardboard boxes, wrapped in newsprint

from Korea, hung them between sink and fridge, to gather there
the wooly dust that clings to kitchen grease. Wharton gives us boudoir

and ballroom, gallery and den, but nothing to guide us in the kitchen—
no judgments there, concerned with beauty, to set your life against.

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