The Homeless Poem Project (No. 02): Jean Voneman Mikhail

Coal Stove

You were the girl they wanted to send away.
Hot path under your feet, balancing your vessel
awkwardly on your head, zigzagging away from home.

But you stayed. You were the girl carrying water,
dousing the blue flames of your eyes
because fire, you decided, wasn’t the right element.

You were the girl they wanted to leave.
Their hints were subtle. Drafts kept the doors ajar,
cracks formed at the window. When a dagger of glass

broke off and fell one story, it didn’t shatter.
A wedge propped the window open all day
where the curtains sucked for air yet grew paler.

When everything invited you to leave, you crouched
down. You were the arch of the door, guard
to the fire, feeding it with each wooden step

she would pace. Her hums around the dinner table
reminded you of songs she used to sing before
you were born. You can go no further than her songs,

even though she doesn’t want you. You give the fire
your fodder, and listen to its own songs of forgiveness.

Of “Coal Stove,” Jean Voneman Mikhail says,

This poem began as a story my dad told me about a coal stove in his house, and a story about a girl who was not really wanted by her mother. I think I placed the two ideas side by side because of the idea of the hearth, of home, and the conflict experienced by those children far from home either as a place, or as an idea that brings them peace and comfort.

More About the Poet:

Jean Voneman Mikhail is from Avon Lake, OH. She has lived in Athens, OH, however, since 1982. She has a BA and an MA in Creative Writing at Ohio University, and a Masters in Library Science from Kent State. She has published in the Worthington Press, Riverwind and Fifth Wednesday Journal. She lives with her husband and three children and too many cats and dogs in Athens.

Photo (see above): Jean Voneman Mikhail’s writing space




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