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3 A.M. KITCHEN: MY FATHER TALKING, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"3 A.M. Kitchen: My Father Talking" is a poem by Tess Gallagher that was published in her collection "Dear Ghosts" in 2006. The poem reflects on a conversation the speaker has with her father in the early morning hours while they are both awake and sitting in the kitchen. The conversation touches on themes of mortality, loss, and the passing of time.


The poem begins with the speaker recounting a conversation she had with her father at 3 a.m. in the kitchen. Her father begins to speak about his own mortality, stating that he knows his life will not last forever. The speaker tries to comfort him by saying that everyone's time on earth is limited, but her father responds by saying that he doesn't want to leave the world just yet.

The conversation then shifts to the speaker's own sense of loss, as she recalls a time when she was a child and woke up in the middle of the night to find her father sitting in the same kitchen. She recalls feeling a sense of comfort and security at the sight of him, but now feels a sense of sadness as she recognizes how much time has passed and how much has been lost.

As the conversation continues, the speaker's father expresses his hope that he will be remembered fondly after he is gone. The speaker reflects on the fact that memories can be fleeting and that even those who are remembered are eventually forgotten over time. However, she reassures her father that he has made an impact on her life and that she will always carry him with her.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: The poem is written in free verse, with no consistent meter or rhyme scheme.
  • Imagery: The poem is rich with sensory detail, particularly in its descriptions of the kitchen setting. The speaker describes the sound of the refrigerator humming, the smell of the coffee, and the feel of the linoleum floor underfoot.
  • Repetition: The poem makes use of repetition to emphasize certain themes and ideas. The phrase "3 a.m. kitchen" is repeated throughout the poem, serving as a kind of refrain that ties the various sections of the poem together.


"3 A.M. Kitchen: My Father Talking" is a poignant reflection on the passing of time and the inevitability of mortality. Through the conversation between the speaker and her father, the poem explores themes of loss, memory, and the ways in which we attempt to make our lives meaningful. Ultimately, the poem suggests that while we may not be able to control our own mortality, we can still find comfort and meaning in the connections we make with others.

Poem Snippet:

"3 a.m. kitchen, where he speaks 

 of his own end, says 

he knows it's coming. 

 I tell him we all die,

but he doesn't want to go."

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