It’s not often you encounter a routine piece of kitchen hardware in a poem. I can’t recall meeting a salad spinner before seeing it here as the title of a poem. And then finding the poem is a full page in length is intriguing — and welcome. Why strain for the exotic when there are so many possibilities in the kitchen cupboard?
Of course (spoiler alert) this poem reaches out beyond this plastic bowl and its ‘tiny prim plastic wheels’ but, for the moment, let’s stay with the spinner. The poem opens
I have failed to convey to you why
I hate it so much. You laugh.
and you know immediately that there’s a backstory, and it’s personal. It’s not just the ‘something obscene in plastic things’, followed by the hyperbolic argument ‘that the dinosaurs died, prehistoric forests / went to mush’ and the spinner’s future is in landfill. There’s that ‘you’. This argument is in a relationship.
It makes me want to spit when you take
the rinsed leaves from me, stand with it
under one arm like a mandolin, whirring.
It’s an on-going resentment, like so many kitchen issues. It could end here, going round like the spinner. Like good poems, it doesn’t. It broadens out, becomes introspective, reflective. The loathing of this innocent salad spinner (I’m starting to take its side now) goes back to earlier values inherited from
[ ... ] my mother,
dirty hippy, proud as a filthy old aristocrat.
This is something to do with her life thirty years ago.
That was a freer, unconventional life. And, of course, the poem comes back to the poet. ‘As you make my dinner, / I blame you for everything I haven’t done / since I was twenty.’
This is the heart of it: the bourgeois life represented by the salad spinner — ‘Victorian semi on the right side of town, mortgage / practically paid off, convenient for the theatre.’ There’s a visceral need to throw it all over with a wild flourish — ‘Let me eat pesticides. Let me eat mud.’ Hyperbole, of course. But the alternative life style still has a strong pull.
D. A. Prince
Disclosure: my salad spinner is 1980s, and orange plastic. I keep meaning to replace it. I never have. This poem, like the rest of the pamphlet, speaks to me.