Posts Tagged ‘ordinary tasks’

Poetry Challenge 18

April 24, 2009

Small Chores

Our lives are full of small maintenance tasks that we do without thinking about them much. These tasks–brushing teeth, washing clothes or dishes, cooking–form a framework that the other “meaningful” activities we do can be built on. If we rush past one of these tasks and forget it, things seem out of kilter.

For example, today I had a routine visit from my farrier, Tom, to trim Mattie and Sam’s hooves. Standing there holding the horse while Tom trims and rasps, I notice how each visit marks the passage of time–today we stood in soft mud; last time it was 10 below–and how the horses relax into the moment, as if they know we are tending their welfare. For a few moments, they and we have the sense that all’s right with the world.

Write about a small maintenance task, the objects involved, the textures, smells, shapes, etc. Don’t worry about the big picture. It’s always there in how we do small things.


Response from Glow:

no question
over 6 years
8:00 AM, 8:00 PM
insulin shots for the cat
4389 times in 12-hour spaces
rhythms our lives settle between.
On this rhythm our careers were cobbled
patchwork research, loving, cooking conducted
travel parceled out among one of us at a time
tenure built and won while one of us ensured insulin
documentary film created while one of us measured glucose
trips to the vet, crisis consultatons, kindness doled out
litter boxes organized, filled, emptied, a kind of skill
meanwhile dinners fixed, lunches packed
love made, showers taken, groceries
alloted among shelves packed with
cat supplies, needles, bottles
special canned food, best dry
new small round dishes
flowers, fruit, leaves
best size for bites
of tempting treats
designed to lull
diabetes to


Here’s my response to this prompt:

Opening the Greenhouse

Last summer’s tomatoes
pale as skeletons,
brittle leaves:
lace handkerchiefs dangle
from bony fingers.

My fingers itch
for dirt. I tug the stems
pull the dead roots
from last year’s soil,
these plants I tended
each day, wept
to give over to frost.

I tip the planters
so dirt piles
in a plastic bin;
stack them to be washed
and the vines to compost.

I sweep the wooden bench
of dirt and leaves
where the plastic flats
hold new tomatoes,
inches high, stretching
for sun.

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