This piece first appeared in the Winter Reading issue (#50) of our Gravy quarterly.

Mise en Place

by Melissa Dickson

It’s a routine mole removal, but he charts

the dark sweep of skin inside his patient’s forearm,

an oven burn long since healed to this calligraphy.

He sees them every day, four or five inches beyond the palm,

proof that when the timer chimes its impatient trill

these women grab dishrags instead of oven mitts

It’s written here as clear as the cookbooks

she’s long since stopped consulting: the toddler lurching

into the scent of an unleashed oven, the slick

of applesauce to mop up, the rice and butter beans

simmering stovetop, the little thing it is to scar

an arm, and the sin it is to burn the cornbread.

Melissa Dickson is a poet and mother of four whose poems can be found in Shenandoah, Cumberland River Review, and Southern Humanities Review.