Category: Ordinary Thanks

Elizabeth Howard’s online Gratitude log

My Father-in-Law’s Dishes


I am in a kitchen in Ontario
And the house is packed in
With family and around with
Snow, and even more so by
Farmland and emptiness. It’s
March, my mother-in-law’s birthday
A day we’ve made as a holiday
Because it makes sense to
Celebrate in the middle of
Winter in the middle of the
School year so that all can
Come without interruptions to
Holier days.

And we eat turkey around the
Pool table, with all the
Chairs assembling from the
Scattered bedrooms in this
Rambling affair of a house and
My brothers-in-law Duane and
Greg have puzzled together the
Plywood cover for the table that
Duane built for us to eat on and which
He’ll leave there for
The Duration because,
I’ve noticed, it bothers him how my
Son bangs the balls around.

And we demolish the meal that took Henry
Days to prepare, we demolish it in
20 minutes, which is less time than it took
To make the gravy.
And the kids want to leave the table,
But I don’t let them. They fidget.
I recognize the twitchiness in my
Own memory, eating around the
Brown card table in Granny’s
Icy basement.

Karen and I clear the dishes,
And there’s the scraping into
Compost, and rinsing into
Sink strainer. I prefer my
Garbage disposal at home, but I
Can work with this system.
My father-in-law nibbles on bits
As he packs up the food. There is
Turkey carcass everywhere.

I move the dirties from one, and then
Another area of counter and wipe them clean.
Now a dry towel down here, for the wet dishes, and
Another on my shoulder. And one more, for
Colin to join me.
That counter is dry and no, please,
No more dirty dishes there. I wipe it down again.

The hot water
Fills the sink
And the soap.
I begin with the
Least dirty plates,
Front and back.

By the time I get to the pots and the pan I am really very
Tired and the water is sludge and I thought perhaps I could
Make it on one sink this time but I didn’t so I
Let it all out, the filth,
And rinse the porcelain sides with my hands. Bang the
Basket into the trash.
More hot water.
The leftovers are stored in plastic.
The twins are sitting on Duane.
A dog rushes down the hall after a ball.

The sink fills again and
I keep going on,
Washing my
Father-in-law’s dishes.

The Wind Still Blows

Good morning, again.
I’m still breathing. I’m still
Yours and still I’m unfixed
This Thursday in the middle of
The dregs of winter. Occasionally it
Occurs to me to believe that
This will be the best we get
And that seems awful, and then
Occasionally, after a night
Like last night when
Everything was exactly the
Same as the night before and the
Night before last, except that
The wind still blows this morning
Hard and mean and off the
Sound, I find myself in the
Tunnel pushed from behind and
Then I feel the momentum.

Cancelled – small stone

Everyday a pile of
Useless mortgage and
Credit offers land inside
That bronze and rusted
Mailbox I want to replace.

Except, when, like a
Semicolon, the stream of
Marketing unconsciousness
Is interrupted by a

A cancelled stamp and
My name scrawled in
Wild Sharpie ink:
A handwritten letter from you.

I’m writing small stones as part of the January Mindful Writing Challenge. Please feel free to comment! And come read more on small stones on Twitter.

 

Gingerbread tag — small stone 2


I spotted this
Gingerbread tag
Tied with golden
Thread to the
Candy Bulk Barn
Shopping tote at
The end of the rubber
Conveyor. Father-in-law,
It was
In fact
My favorite gift.

— part of the 2013 Mindful Writing Challenge on “Writing Our Way Home”

The Bird Didn’t Care

The bird who dove across
Hwy 34 exit toward downtown
New Haven — the interchange
New to the interstate that
Flies over gravity’s expectations —
The bird who ignited herself
From some hidden nest to climb
In tandem with the cars over
The harbor marsh lands. This bird
Who fixed her sights on some
Distinct treetop in a still
Sweet corner of land someone
Forgot to backhoe under, this
Bird didn’t care for Swedish
Meatballs or which ninety road
Leads north, actually. The bird
Dove, left wing down, across the
Cement chute that tossed me
Into the next rectangle
Hour of my day, and
Disappeared like smoke.

— from the road

I Don’t Mean to Be Crass

I don’t mean to be crass
It’s just that
I’ve been alone all day and
I’ve got all these words
Clattering around inside me: mean,
Rusted out shards of
Everyday life tossed in a big ole
Heap, and so
By the time
We meet up at the playground and
Get the kids well-scattered on the
Spider climbers, then shrug off our
Weekend updates, I don’t
Intend to seem as if I
Am half-dozing-then-
Half-screeching through our
Chat.

You know…
I’ve dreamt of myself as a
Kitten-pawed belle, scraped and
Sanded free of my trigger-happy
Mouth. I’ve tried it on and
I’ve opted-instead, for
A life of apologies,
I guess, because it feels
Weird,
To me,
Being so sweet when life puffs out
These breaths of now and then which just
Stink like maggoty meat.