Poem of the Week, by Alison McGhee

Are you interested in a week of twice-daily no-pressure writing together on Zoom? Click here for details on our June 10-16 session of Write Together. I’d love to see you there!

More than seventeen years have passed for the woman who wrote this poem. She re-upped her bargain with the planets when Venus and Jupiter and Mercury again conjoined in the southwestern sky, and if she’s lucky she’ll keep re-upping it as long as she’s alive. This poem goes out to everyone –not just mothers, but everyone–who would trade their own life if it meant someone they loved could keep living.

Bargain, by Alison McGhee

The newspaper reports that at twilight tonight
Venus and Jupiter will conjoin
in the southwestern sky,
a fist and a half above the horizon.
They won’t come together again for seventeen years.
What the article does not say is that Mercury, the
dark planet, will also be on hand.
He’ll hover low, nearly invisible in a darkened sky.
I stare out the kitchen window toward the sunset.

Seventeen years from now, where
will I be?
Mercury, Roman god of commerce and luck,
let me propose a trade:
Auburn hair, muscles that don’t ache, and a seven-minute mile.
Here’s what I’ll give you in return:
My recipe for Brazilian seafood stew, a talent for
French-braiding, an excellent sense of smell and
the memory of having once kissed Sam W.

Then I see my girl across the room.
She stands on a stool at the sink,
washing her toy dishes and
swaying to a whispered song,
her dark curls a nimbus in the lamplight.
The planets are coming together now.
Minute by minute the time draws nigh for me to watch.
Minute by minute my child wipes dry her red
plastic knife, her miniature blue bowls.

Mercury, here’s another offer, a real one this time:
Let her be.
You can have it all in return,
the salty stew, the braids, the excellent sense of smell
and the softness of Sam’s mouth on mine.
And my life. That too.
All of it I give for this child, that seventeen years hence
she will stand in a distant kitchen, washing dishes
I cannot see, humming a tune I cannot hear.

My podcast: Words by Winter


  1. piensalomn · 21 Days Ago

    This! The breadth, the depth, the magnitude of a mother’s love for her child-…To be able to capture the indescribable with words is truly a work of art.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alisonmcghee · 20 Days Ago

      Such a beautiful comment. Thank you so much.


  2. John Kantar · 21 Days Ago

    This is beautiful and so honest Alison. So true. Good luck, good health, John


    Liked by 1 person

    • alisonmcghee · 20 Days Ago

      Thank you, John. High praise. XO


  3. cindywold · 21 Days Ago

    Your poem, Alison! I love it. The rhythm, the language, the love. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alisonmcghee · 20 Days Ago

      Thank you so much, Cynthia!


  4. Diane Gottlieb · 20 Days Ago

    Oh this poem, Alison! Broke me–in all the right places! XOXOXO

    P.S. My dear sister signed up for the June write together. Now she will love you too!!! Diane

    Liked by 1 person

    • alisonmcghee · 20 Days Ago

      I’m so happy about this! xoxoxo


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s