Food Poem – Ode to the Pull-Out Couch by Sonja Johnson

Eating supper instead of dinner, sleeping on a couch instead of a guest room. Check out how food and furniture convey messages of class difference in this poem.

Which once belonged to your great-
grandparents, but belongs to us now,
and still works, even if the cushions
are pretty well flattened and the stuffing
is coming out from one armrest,
and the color, which was probably
once cream with red stitching, has
become mostly a muddy rust —

and which is always called a couch
and never, ever a sofa, just as
a pocketbook is not a purse, a bureau
is not a dresser, and pants are not
slacks. Only snooty people on TV
would call a couch a sofa, or rich
people, or maybe people from away.
Which we are not.

Because if we were any of those,
instead of just a pull-out couch,
we would have a guest room, with
a comforter and duvet, which no
guests would ever sleep under
because they would be staying at
a five-star hotel, where we would
join them for a five-star dinner

instead of the supper we cook
for our cousins up from Alfred,
which makes them still from here
and not from away, so they can’t
afford to go out to dinner, much
less afford a fancy hotel room
even if there was a hotel in town.
Which there is not.

And after our supper and before
we wake up early to take them
ice fishing, we pull out the couch
and give them pillows and blankets
and maybe even the granny-square
afghan, and they get to sleep by
the woodstove with the extra cats
and know that they are welcome.

From the Writer’s Almanac

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