What The Living Do

About six years ago I was at a teacher conference and the presenter gave us this poem to read using  the reading strategies we had learned. I was partnered with a guy that obviously didn't like poetry and probably didn't want to be there. Our discussion didn't go far, but I was struck by the poem. I returning home and revisiting this poem numerous times. I later learned Marie Howe lost her brother to AIDs .  The poem made more sense. I love the fresh approach to living. I have always been drawn to poems that help us remember the ordinary things like Drano, spilled coffee, or buying a hairbrush.

by Marie Howe

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.

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful poem! Thank you so much for sharing it. I wish that guy had been more into poetry… but at least the poem struck you.


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