Two older poems, one (Washing Dishes) new. I saw a series and pulled it together.
It doesn’t matter if there are
few or many: I do the dishes
in the morning, every morning.
My hands stinging from the hot water,
I sigh inside when there are many,
rejoicing impatiently even if there’s one
and only one because I’ve set myself
a parameter that no coffee can be poured
until the sink is clear. The drainer
can be full, the silverware basket
overfull, but until the last item’s
clean and set aside to dry
I am unable to move on. The first thing
I do, every morning, is cleanse
from the day before.
Why not do the dishes
before bed? Start the day
with nothing waiting?
That would seem dishonest to me,
to be fair. It seems a lie
to pretend upon waking that
the day before never happened
and that all I’ve got before me
is new and untouched.
To wash the previous day’s dishes
firs thing in the morning, though?
An acknowledgement of past
before the future begins. A statement
that in the present, the past and future
demand attention too.
The Straight Razor
This deep into my life
I have begun shaving with
a straight razor,
not so much for
the trendiness of the act among
certain smug sectors of the hip population,
but from a lust for sustainability
born from a desire to stop
disposing of so much good steel.
Also (in the spirit of this
I need solid proof
that with care
I can enter danger daily
and come out clean;
as I do not believe
danger will play fair
in the streets
it is good to know
I can take it on my chosen turf
in at least one small way.
I wet my face and lather up,
set the edge against my skin,
draw it at the proper angle
through the white mask I’ve donned;
think of my grandfathers
as I take care upon the jawline and chin.
If I nick myself I do not stop.
If I see red I do not flinch
but finish and administer stinging care
until I see the face I want before me.
Then comes maintenance of tools.
Cleansing of sink and mirror.
It is a ritual and as such
things must be done well
and precisely from start to finish.
One more thing:
a straight razor
fits well in a boot if need be,
and once you know
what you are doing with one?
That is a fine place to keep it.
I come home
thinking of fall and
I go to my backyard beds
and pick whatever’s ripe
for my favorite summer meal:
thick-sliced plum tomatoes,
a few shreds of basil,
light on the olive oil.
You once questioned me:
why not traditional Mozzarella?
I said it’s because I feel that
strong blues make flavors pop
and without strong flavors,
what’s the point?
You tasted it,
agreed, told me later
you could no longer imagine
not using a strong blue cheese
in a tomato salad, and I was
as well pleased as I could be
that we’d fallen once again into
the same place on something —
I remember this as I stare into
strong blues and bright reds
in this bowl, stare into oil bubbles,
a brown slick of vinegar, remember
you weren’t here to help me
plant this year, to plant the beds
scant weeks after your passing;
you weren’t here to help me weed
and toss and water and feed;
realize again, as if for the first time,
that you aren’t here to help me savor
the likely last summer salad of the year,
of the inevitable