Three Rituals

Two older poems, one (Washing Dishes) new. I saw a series and pulled it together.

Washing Dishes

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
historical moment)

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 
craving tomatoes.

I go to my backyard beds
and pick whatever’s ripe
for my favorite summer meal:
thick-sliced plum tomatoes,
Gorgonzola cheese,
a few shreds of basil, 
balsamic vinegar,
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,
picked ahead 
of the inevitable 
killing frost.

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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