Posts Tagged ‘housework’



At seven, I sat on a towel in front of the freezer

with the blow dryer, a sponge and a bucket

to earn money for a new plastic recorder.

Oh, how I wanted that reward.

So for hours, I switched the blow dryer

from one hand to the other, inwardly fussy,

wishing mom would just buy it for me.

How enormous the task seemed then.

When that brown recorder

finally came in a beige vinyl pouch,

I played “Hot Cross Buns” like I meant it.

I blew “Ode to Joy” in bright torture through the house,

and mangled “Mary Had a Little Lamb,”

but oh was I happy.


Now, scrubbing my parent’s refrigerator

I see how the tables have turned,

how the work becomes its own reward.

Decades of my parent’s love and sacrifice

bring me to this moment, when,

kneeling in front of the fridge,

sponge in hand, bucket beside me,

I feel like the luckiest woman alive,

Mom going through the cupboards beside me,

humming “Love is Blue,” perhaps a little out tune,

but oh, she is happy, so happy.





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One Portrait

for the mothers

Her arms are never empty.
There is perhaps a silence
that holds the space for all this hum,
but she knows it more by faith
than by experience. Sometimes
she sees herself in the window
at night as she moves about the kitchen,
stacking dry dishes and setting out bottles
for morning. She is older now. Less
herself and more something else,
something she cannot name,
though she has stopped believing
in the power of names to contain things.
Sometimes she wonders when she
will disappear from the window.
Already she sees it, how she’s become blur,
as if tears fell on a watercolor, and all
is smudgy and hazy and vague. But
who would want to paint this scene, the making
of sandwiches, the watering of the jade.
It will come, the vanishing. For now,
the armfuls of shirts and socks. For now
the low drone of the dryer as it tumbles,
the occasional clashing of a zipper or buckle.
For now, the milk to put away.

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A woman spends her life looking for God.
Well, actually, she doesn’t. She spends
her life doing dishes. Sweeping floors.
Folding laundry. Sometimes she wonders
if there is a god and if it is possible there
is not. And then she wonders if there
is enough peanut butter to make
the children’s lunch. Sometimes
when she is quiet there is something
she cannot express. It is something like
blackness. It is something like nothing.
It is something that she can lean into
until she remembers the bread needs
to come out of the oven. Why does she feel
it, this tug toward that nothing? And
why does she vacuum on top of it?
There are bills to be paid. Errands
to run. Bottoms to wipe. She makes a
whole to do list of excuses not to find
out what is there. Sometimes she feels
something. A certain uncertain, what?
And then it slips between the books
on the shelf that she has forgotten
again to dust.

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