Poetry Friday

I first heard this poem when James Howe read an excerpt at the TC Reunion.  His reading brought tears to my eyes, as he explained that Marie Howe wrote the poem to her brother after he passed away from AIDS.

 

WHAT THE LIVING DO

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.

 

From The Atlantic

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4 Responses

  1. That is such a great poem…thanks for sharing it!

  2. [...] Laura has a bit of ekphrastic poetry and William Carlos Williams  .  Some original tanka is found Linda’s Write Time.  At Blue Rose Girls,  a Poetry Friday post for Native American Heritage Month with two poems by Sherman Alexie.  Thanks to the blog, A Habit of Reading,  this is sooo appropriate for Washington and Oregon” weather,  The Mist and All.   Adeventures in Daily lLiving explores the rain with an Aileen Fisher poem.  Under the CoversAnother is in with an original fall poem, “Phoenix Feathers”.  November is a time of reflection and Sarah had selected Marie Howe. [...]

  3. Breathtaking. Thanks for this reminder!

  4. What a great poem!

    A friend died a couple of years ago and this poem expresses how I felt for about 3 months afterwards.

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