When I was seventeen
by Mary Ellen Talley

I advanced perception
by believing in song lyrics,
the buttermilk biscuits
filled with strawberry jam
of my youth. The doorbell always
rang twice, once at the onset
of my period and again
five minutes before
the Monroe St. bus arrived
at the closest stop on Cedar St.
Mom and I had the schedule
memorized. One night,
as my boyfriend and I
sat on my front steps kissing
after our date, my mom
walked up the sidewalk
having missed the bus
after her pottery class.
(It was summer. I found
it odd to think of my mom
teaching P.E. and art
to fifth graders.)
She had been working late
trying to smooth her clumsy clay
thinner, to a finer edged bowl,
left it to fire in the kiln
and the last bus had passed by.
She started walking up
the Monroe St. hill, down Garland
to our house on Walnut.
Midnight kisses interrupted.
My boyfriend admonished her
like a worried parent.
He would’ve come to get her.
(Perhaps I vowed to marry him
at that moment.) But my mother
was as resilient as the rhubarb
growing out back beside our garbage cans.
The base of the bowl still turned out thick.
Heavy. Cobalt blue. (She also worked late
to perfect her glaze.)
I use the large bowl for chips,
her smaller bowl
with imperfect grainy surface for salsa.
Both pieces match.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me at age 17 at Holy Names Academy Autumn Fling with my future husband in Spokane, Washington (1967).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As I began responding to the “Me, at 17” prompt, I started listing all the hit tunes, but the poem quickly moved away from music. “When I was seventeen” includes a story about when my husband and I were dating in our home town of Spokane, Washington. I still have the blue bowls referred to in the poem. My mom was near retirement but still learning skills to improve her teaching skills.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have most recently been published in Typoetic.us and Kaleidoscope as well as in recent anthologies, The Doll Collection, All We Can Hold : poems of motherhood, and Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. Her poetry has received a Pushcart Nomination. She recently retired after working for many years with words and children as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) in Washington public schools. Mary Ellen is currently working toward publishing chapbooks.