Do not step behind me
When you come home
Encircle my waist from behind
Say, “Whatcha cooking?
Smells good”

Do not stand in the kitchen
Or sit on the counter
Steal scraps from the cutting board
Tell me your day
Keep me company
While I make supper.

Do not kiss my shoulder
Make me smile a little
Help me feel proud
To be my mother
Married to my father
The recipient of kitchen intimacy
Built on years of affection and good meals.

Do not do that.

Instead please nervously ask from the doorway
What are you doing
Wring your hands
Worry I’ll make a mess
Feel compelled to tend immediately.

Make me look at the stove vent
Hold my tears
Back still to your lingering.

Please help me feel guilty for insisting
My children be fed on good love and food.

Please leave me lonely and mourning him.

I make things.
I always have.
Lesson plans and paintings
Things to wear and love to eat.

And messes.

I do that.

In my years with you I’ve learned messes
Aren’t welcome in your space

Which means mostly I am unwelcome
And the children

Because making messes is what we do.

I’ve stopped painting
And sewing
Sewing leaves remnants.
It became too sad
To see them lying on the floor
A circle about my feet
Where the cloth was cut.

I write these days in secret
Exhausted with your certainty
That every line is about you
And surely negative
Pacing pacing pacing
Asking too many questions
Shattering my thoughts.

I cook now.
This stove the only canvas I’ve left.

This one I can justify:
The family must eat.
This mess is necessary.
There is no guilt in stove pots.

I can see them fill themselves on love:
family and guests
Seated at my table.
I want them welcome and full.

But during the act of making

I am still alone.


“Art Time, Mama (Cookie Swimming)” © Sally Deskins

“Art Time, Mama (Cookie Swimming)” © Sally Deskins


Shannon McGinnis is the single most inept adult on the planet, the perpetrator of repeated adulting failures. She lives in Oklahoma with two victims (children), a cat, a turtle, and a dog (probably raising the victim count to at least 7). Her hope is to improve attempts at adulting by writing out her demons. Thus far, this appears to be an exercise in futility.

Sally Deskins is an artist and writer focusing on perspectives of women including her own. She’s been published internationally and exhibited nationally and has curated several exhibitions and books.