You Wave That Flag, Honey, a Prayer for Your First Dish Rag
by Barbara Mossberg

This creased, bright white with red stripe, brand new linen I just bought to give you, in your first kitchen of your own, beginning your new chosen life. This perfect clean cloth. My high hopes for you, my daughter, and I want to make a prayer. For what is wrinkled, sopping, clutched wiping counters and sinks, plates, and who knows, the floor, the wall, the cheeks and chin and lips? Be of mind, how women have stood so, wiping the plate, after the dinner, after the cooking, after the backache, after the shopping, after the planning, after the carrying, after the worrying, after the lists, after the taking the hen’s life, after bartering for the beans, after picking the berries in the hot sun, when sweat was pouring down one’s chest, a stinking bear a grunt away, the apron soaked, and the blank look, the blank feel: no, no Matey, not you; not for you this history of the dish cloth, making the counter clean or dry. No. This is a new life, and this cloth will be used, wait, you are thinking on top of the head I Love Lucy bunny ears or waving from the balcony at the incoming train, how it will save the day as a peace flag you have in your pocket in case peace is needed and possible, the way you tagged the runner out on first your first softball game in first grade, the runner on the way to you as your teammates scramble for the ball, and you stand calmly, wondering at the furor, when you have another ball in your pocket and you take it out, tag the runner. It is always good to have a ball in your pocket in case a runner is coming to first, keep it then, it is always good to have a dish rag in case peace is at hand.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 15, Issue 2.

Barbara Mossberg is Poet in Residence for the City of Pacific Grove, California, and founder and host of KRXA 540AM’s “The Poetry Slow Down with Professor Barbara Mossberg,” a weekly hour radio show promoting language arts in civic culture (

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