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Provenance - Shannon Vesely

Why do you do this?

my daughter asks.

I’m wiping clean a piece of used aluminum foil,

then folding it into a neat square

to be stacked with others in the drawer near the stove.

My hands know the way

and make quick work of it.

My heart, too, knows the way

as I remember the words of my mother

who saves foil still—

as if this is a lesson all must learn,

as if the economy of the world rests on this.

Why do you do this?

As a girl, I asked my mother

when she patted shiny squares of foil where they sat—

as they always had—

beside assorted pencils and pens, a box of sandwich bags

and a new roll of aluminum foil,

round and royal, nestled on a throne

of hot pads.

To make do, she says.

And she tells me of the years

her mother and grandmother suffered

though the Depression and both World Wars.

So, today, I tell my daughter:

We do thisbecause your grandmother and great grandmother

and great great grandmother did this,

because in a world of throw-aways,

we remember a world of want,

because to make do

is to honor the women we love.

She looks out the window to the yard

as if the lean years wait there,

crouched and urgent, in feed sack aprons.

And when she turns, taking the foil into her own small hands,

she holds it like a prayer,

a provenance to live for.


Shannon Vesely is a retired teacher, mother, and grandmother who resides in rural southeast Iowa. For 40 years, she taught English in college and K-12 classrooms throughout the Midwest. Since retirement, Shannon served as an adjunct English instructor and literary consultant for area schools. Currently, she writes essays for her websites, Sanctuaries, collaborates with local composers, and writes poetry. Shannon's poetry has appeared in Nebraska Life, Platte Valley Review, Alicorn, and most currently in a published collection, The Way of Things (Rogue Faculty Press, 2021). Shannon's father claimed that everyone has at least “one good poem in our hidden heads.” Shannon has wrote with her continued desire to uncover her one “good poem.”



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