April 1, 2010

Poem for April

dishes-sink

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil
     probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty
     dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we
     spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight
     pours through

the open living room windows because the heat’s on too high in here,
     and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street
     the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying
     along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my
     wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush:
     This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called
     that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter
     to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more
     and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in
     the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a
     cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m
     speechless:

I am living, I remember you.

–Marie Howe

photo via alancleaver

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Comments

  • I know this isn’t the springiest poem in the world, but I just couldn’t resist. My sophomore English teacher read this poem aloud one morning in class and my heart dropped into my shoes; all these years later, my reaction’s still the same. God, I love this poem. Hope you do too.7 years ago

  • Ashley: It made me, I can’t find a better word, gasp. Pulled the air quietly out of me. It is perfect. Just perfect.7 years ago

  • Karen: Breathless. Ashley, I couldn’t have described my own reaction better. What an amazing piece of writing — thanks for sharing!7 years ago

  • Liz: I almost started crying…so touching. Thank you for sharing this with me today.7 years ago

  • Gretchen: You nailed it Ashley, and yes, Sarah, I love this poem. When I was lamenting being a single parent and all the stresses involved, my Mom said to me: “Well, that is life.” My immediate reaction was, oh god, really? And then a light went on- did the poet catch my thought?- that it IS life, all those moments we should savor…7 years ago

  • Carly: heart dropping to my shoes is exactly what happened to me. I crept back here about three times to reread it.7 years ago

  • Chelsea: Perfect. Thank you for sharing.7 years ago

  • Kelly: I love this. Love it. How wonderful that your English teacher read it to your class!7 years ago

  • e.liz.a: After working on papers and papers and papers all night, this was perfect. This is life. And I love it.7 years ago

  • Gina @cakeandcordial: it hurts my stomach a little, but in a good way.7 years ago

  • Kristina: You brought this to me at exactly the time when I needed it most. I love the way the energy of the world works sometimes. Thank you.7 years ago

  • Joy: I used to read this poem all the time after my dad (also a John) died. Today would have been his 60th birthday, and I woke up to find the poem in my inbox. How wonderful…thank you.7 years ago

  • Joy, That is what I call an utterly synchronistic moment. I’m glad it showed up at just the right time.7 years ago

  • Wendy: Thank you for making my Spring that much more Springier! Beautiful poem, beautiful person that you are!
    Blessed Easter to you!7 years ago

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams: This is one of my favorite poems EVER. I’ve loved it for years. Thank you so much for posting it.7 years ago

  • Jennifer: I have never read or heard this poem before, but it couldn’t have been delivered on a more perfect day. Often when I am out for a long run, there is that poignant moment when I am stung by the very essence of my living.

    The commentary about the broken-ness of the home is pointed perfectly at my post-winter shambles: clogged drains and all.

    I love stumbling upon treasures; thank you’s to Martha Stewart who lead me to your lovely words.7 years ago

  • The Poetry of the Everyday « Pink of Perfection: […] and it was here one morning after the second bell rang at 7:35, that my teacher stood and read What the Living Do by Marie Howe. Before the last lines I was in my seat, facing two different boys I had crushes on, […]4 years ago

  • Kristen Cochran: That poem brought me to my knees. I never heard it before. Thank you for sharing. I try to remember everyday, what if someone I love weren’t here with me. What would I do? How would I see? I try to see it like that. Appreciate the living moments. When they are gone, they are gone.4 years ago

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