Three Poems by Diane Gilliam

A Five-Line Poem About Love

oh listen, by the time I got to the kitchen

the curtains already were blowing goodbye

there were breadcrumbs everywhere 

and all I could think of was bread

and all I could do was cry


Iron on Tuesday

which is today.  Yards
and yards of strips—two and a half
inch strips cut to the width
of the fabrics, each one different,
each one the kind of color
loved by the heart
for whom
I would iron all day.

Four strips in each set,
four different prints,
four different colors
four chambers of the heart,
two twins.

Four strips per set
stitched with who knows
how many miles of thread.
Look, I have saved even 
the empty spools, 
I so love the heart
for whom I would stitch
so many miles a day.

I am hard on an iron,
never enough steam 
because always 
I am knocking them 
off the ironing board,
cracking the bit
at the bottom of the water 
well inside. And then because
I press down hard
to make up for 
the meagerness of the steam,
one side 
of the ironing board itself,
the plane of it,
gets pushed down 
in the direction I push toward,
away from me, which makes it
all that much easier 
to knock off the iron, and
there you go.

Listen, though.

I have brought the board,
for the sake of the heart
for whom I would iron
all day long, for that heart
have I brought
the ironing board
almost to its knees.

Listen, it creaks
every time I push
down on the iron,
to strengthen  
and straighten the seams
that hold the strips 
together, and the sound
it makes—I wish 
you could hear,
such a dear
comforting sound 
it isthe sound
of a screen door,
her back door,
opening into her kitchen. 


And He'll Say No More

My father will tell you that my sister is a completely different person and in the next breath that she weighs about 170 pounds. He’ll tell you you’d have to be not human to have turned her away when she came crying, superhuman to say no to her. He’ll tell you he’s in love with my mother just like when they were sixteen, just like two teenagers in love. He won’t tell you about trying to force her to sign their house over to my sister, how he tells my sister that my mother will sign if he tells her to. He’ll tell you that he has absolute control over his dreams, he never lets anything bad happen, he can make himself wake up or he can make something else happen if he’s getting too close to a cliff or a moving train. And the only way things can work, he’ll say, is if everybody acts just like nothing ever happened. Come home, he says. Come home.

Diane Gilliam is the author of four collections of poetry: Dreadful Wind & Rain (Red Hen, 2017), Kettle Bottom (Perugia Press, 2004), One of Everything (The Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2003) and Recipe for Blackberry Cake (Chapbook, Kent State University Press, 1999). She teaches in Appalachian regional workshops and as guest faculty in the low-residency MFA Program at West Virginia Wesleyan College. She has received The Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing, a Pushcart Prize, and The Gift of Freedom from A Room of Her Own Foundation. Her YA book, Linney’s Choice, is forthcoming from Saddle Road Press in 2022.