A Conversation in Home Depot’s Kitchen Department with a Line from Mrs. Dalloway

The blush started with a gesture
after poignant questions about bamboo
versus quartz. What brought you

to town? The Home Depot kitchen
salesman’s eyes widened at three letters,
PhD. He caught my love’s eyes and drew

an arch, a rainbow over his belly, over
and over. As if to say, You know what
to do, forget the countertops, go home,

take her in your bed. Yes, I said your
bed and do what men do. I needed
to shield my own, sought the nearest

turtle shell I could borrow to conceal
my womb the salesman had somehow
conjured in the store before I could tell

him that he wore his narcissism like salt,
that I prefer men to cauliflower, but that he
is inviting me to critically examine

this preference, how my love stumbled
over how to exit the conversation as he
had once stumbled over the words

crochet and croquet in our early flirtations.
I find solace in a memory: watching
The Andy Griffith Show, how my love knew

the plot—Andy’s love interest was a better
shot than him and she waited to show him
publicly at a skeet shooting competition,

Just wait for her to emasculate him. I thought
perhaps he waited for me to emasculate
the salesman, tell him about the birth

control packet in my purse as a talisman
against the very bodily state the salesman
suggested, the packet he might mistake for Mike

and Ikes. Perhaps my love wanted me to say
that he was the one waiting for me to be ready,
asked to be the housewife, let the bacon

and bread walk through the door in my never
manicured fingers, a notion of consistency
for the trope the salesman drew in the middle

of the model kitchens, devoid of domesticity
—no flour left behind after the sponge’s bright
wipe, no coffee grounds settled by the machine

like grains of soil after shoveling a fresh grave.
But I laughed, which I felt bounce off
the cabinets, lacking my mother’s pink

depression glass or the thrift-store platters
patterned with roses and ribbon, and smack
me. I laughed light, polite. I wish he’d slapped

me, my love, or fucked me in the model kitchen,
asking the salesman pointedly, Am I doing it right?


Katherine Gaffney completed her MFA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is currently working on her PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her work has previously appeared in jubilat, Harpur Palate, Mississippi Review, Meridian, and elsewhere. She has attended the Tin House Summer Writing Workshop, the SAFTA Residency, and the Sewanee Writers Conference as a scholar. Her first chapbook, Once Read as Ruin, was published by Finishing Line Press. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from Tampa University Press in 2023 after winning the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry.