“How memories turn” by Kelsey Ann Kerr

martha.color island
Martha Dunfee


How memories turn

Memories are plastic, my friend tells me,
they burn, they twist, they blacken.

I’d rather, instead, swaddle them tight
in plastic wrap, preserve them:

the uncharred burgers of my childhood,
thick slices of cheddar melted on top

from the warmth of my father’s hands,
the sautéed onions, peppers and pierogis

tossed with the melted red spatula
in our white galley kitchen.

The last time I opened the fridge,
it was in the process of being emptied

of anything that had touched
my parents’ lips. I should have

savored every bite of their leftovers,
taken them with me to my new home,

draped the baby Swiss over my head
as a veil at my mother’s funeral,

laid it on her dresser in my new apartment
until it turned black from mold.


Kelsey Ann Kerr teaches writing composition at the University of Maryland and American University, and holds an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Maryland. She has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Big River Writers’ Conference. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net 2017 and 2018. Kelsey’s work can be found in Stirring: A Literary Collection, New Delta Review, Mezzo Cammin, The Sewanee Review, and the Atlanta Review, among others.