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A Place to Sit

Text of Poem

Come in, come in, Neighbor, please come in,
I feel so tired this morning I don’t know
if I’m still Emma Brown wife of Pete Brown
or just a worn-out farmwife who won’t see
fifty again, and never having had
children won’t start having any now.
Today I guess the house has got too big
for me to handle, my working power’s drained off,
and here I set, the morning work not done.
All of my married life I’ve tried to do
more than I could, you know, fix up the house
with rugs and curtains, have flowers in a vase,
wear bright fresh dresses in the afternoon,
hoe out my row with the ladies’ group at church,
but the farm just sat there like a hungry frog
and gulped down every cent that we could make.
This morning Pete came in—I know the plow
was old— to get my chicken money, he said,
‘‘Another iron carcass for the boneyard.’’
He’s got a place, weed high and hid away,
where he piles worn-out tools, machines and wire,
he calls it ‘‘boneyard,’’ it’s a place for junk.
‘‘Where is your money, Em, I’ve got to buy
or rent a plow, God how the work piles up.’’
I never put no store on money’s face,
not having any, but this time I’d saved
for something special. All my married life
I’ve thought how nice linoleum would look
on the kitchen floor, you see how worn and stained
the boards are, just this once I hoped we might
spend something on the house and not the farm.
I guess it ain’t to be though, it’s hard to save,
you don’t get rich tending a flock of hens
that roost in an open shed and scrounge for food.
Why, let the chickens scratch, Pete says, he gives
corn to the hogs, sometimes he laughs and says
the hogs eat better than we eat ourselves.
He works real hard and yet he’s kind enough.
You’re only tired, he says, I’ll get Maybelle
to come and help you— she’s the neighbor girl
who isn’t worth her salt except to prance
and wiggle herself at Pete when she serves dinner.
What? . . . No, he laughs . . . Oh, Lord, I wish he would
show interest in something beside the bank account,
or tiling a slough or putting in new fence,
just to show he’s human with a touch of sin.
He don’t know yet how gray my sickness is,
he don’t know my gray hair means gray all through
my skin and bones and heart, hope’s all leaked out
and I’ve dried up like asters after frost.
I had a garden once, once I liked flowers,
when first we married I was fond of flowers . . .
My goodness, see that clock, it’s dinnertime
and here comes Maybelle dressed up fit to kill
in a fancy apron, see now what I mean?
I have one comfort, a day or two ago
I walked out past the barns for some fresh air
and forget the kitchen chores, see if I could,
and look at things, I’ve always felt the need
to be with trees, they seem so rooted—like
in being what they are, well, pretty soon
I came to Pete’s old boneyard hid by weeds
where discards quietly rust themselves away.
I thought I’d bring my rocking chair sometime
and sit among ’em, they look so peaceful-like
and quiet, they wouldn’t begrudge my joining them,
it was a thought I took real comfort in.
Oh, must you go? Well, if you come again
and please do, it’s good to talk and lose
myself in conversation and forget
how tired I am, if you can’t find me here
and my rocking chair is gone, at least you’ll know
where you can find me hid among the weeds.

First Line
Come in, come in, Neighbor, please come in
Original Pub Location
Original Publication Date
Original Citation
New Frontiers 10 (1965) 25.
Complete Poems
Hearst Collections
Word Count
Poetic Form
Bibliographic Notes

Protagonist named Emma Brown.

Twitter Quote
I never put no store on money’s face, / not having any, but this time I’d saved / for something special.