Friday, December 6, 2013

Marie Howe: "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
I am living. I remember you.

"What the Living Do" by Marie Howe, from What the Living Do: Poems. © W. W. Norton & Company, 1999.

Photography credit: Untitled by Steenaire (originally black and white).

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