Once in awhile a strong aversion to poetry comes over me, a sort of distaste for its pretentiousness. Like Marianne Moore, I, too, don’t like it. Yesterday was one of those days, and despite reading through a number of things, I couldn’t select one to send out, although it was Poetry Monday. But this morning I remembered this, by Marie Howe. Her book by the same title is definitely worth owning:
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 window 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 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.
And so I go along slamming my own car doors, wrestling with the electric fence, occasionally remembering a poem I really like, and hoping I can outfox the fox at least for now.