Archives for posts with tag: housework

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IRONING
by Vicki Feaver

I used to iron everything:
my iron flying over sheets and towels
like a sledge chased by wolves over snow;

the flex twisting and crinking
until the sheath frayed, exposing
wires like nerves. I stood like a horse

with a smoking hoof,
inviting anyone who dared
to lie on my silver padded board,

to be pressed to the thinness
of dolls cut from paper.
I’d have commandeered a crane

if I could, got the welders at Jarrow
to heat me an iron the size of a tug
to flatten the house.

Then for years I ironed nothing.
I put the iron in a high cupboard.
I converted to crumpledness.

And now I iron again: shaking
dark spots of water onto wrinkled
silk, nosing into sleeves, round

buttons, breathing the sweet heated smell
hot metal draws from newly washed
cloth, until my blouse dries

to a shining, creaseless blue,
an airy shape with room to push
my arms, breasts, lungs, heart into.

SOURCE: “Ironing” appears in Vicki Feaver‘s collection The Handless Maiden (Random House, 1994), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Vicki Feaver (born Nottingham , England, 1943) is an English poet. She studied music at Durham University and English at University College, London, and later worked as a lecturer and tutor in English and Creative Writing at University College, Chichester, where she is an Emeritus Professor. She now lives with her psychiatrist husband in Dunsyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, at the foot of the Pentland Hills. She is the author of The Book of BloodClose Relatives, and The Handless MaidenThe Book of Blood was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. (Read more at Wikipedia.org.)

Painting: “A Woman Ironing” by Edgar Degas (1873)

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CLEANING WINDOWS   
by Margaret Scott

I don’t much like cleaning windows. Ladders wobble.
You can get mugged by buckets. Upper windows
gleam when I’m twelve feet up but look worse
than before they were washed when I’ve clambered down.
You can see both sides at once—the liberal dilemma—
so it’s often hard to decide what’s splashed the glass—
soup or a passing bird. I feel watched by
opponents of aerosol cans, by consciousness-raisers,
by looming aproned figures from childhood,
by al those sparkling television girls
who show the smiling easy way to clean.
I can be brisk, keeping my mind on the job,
or switch my hand to on and watch the sky.
I can brood on reading the signs, on whether
it’s healthier to reflect or concentrate.
In any case the smears show up at night
and there in the darkened glass that shape again,
that anti-heroine, that dismal clown with the
oh-so-predictable foot in a bucket of suds,
the yell from the teetering ladder, the comical angst.

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THE IDEA OF HOUSEWORK
By Dorianne Laux

What good does it do anyone
to have a drawer full of clean knives,
the tines of tiny pitchforks
gleaming in plastic bins, your face
reflected eight times over
in the oval bowls of spoons?
What does it matter that the bathmat’s
scrubbed free of mold, the door mat
swept clear of leaves, the screen door
picked clean of bees’ wings, wasps’
dumbstruck bodies, the thoraxes
of flies and moths, high corners
broomed of spider webs, flowered
sheets folded and sealed in drawers,
blankets shaken so sleep’s duff and fuzz,
dead skin flakes, lost strands of hair
flicker down on the cut grass?
Who cares if breadcrumbs collect
on the countertop, if photographs
of the ones you love go gray with dust,
if milk jugs pile up, unreturned,
on the back porch near the old dog’s dish
encrusted with puppy chow?
Oh to rub the windows with vinegar,
the trees behind them revealing
their true colors. Oh the bleachy,
waxy, soapy perfume of spring.
Why should the things of this world
shine so? Tell me if you know.

SOURCE: “The Idea of Housework” by Dorianne Laux appears in Sweeping Beauty: Contemporary Women Poets Do Housework, edited byPamela Gemin (University of Iowa Press, 2005). The 212-page collection, which features work by over 80 poets, is available at Amazon.com.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Thankless, mundane, and “never done,”  contemporary women poets are still writing the domestic experience — sometimes resenting its futility and lack of social rewards, sometimes celebrating its sensory delights and immediate gratification, sometimes cherishing the undeniable link it provides to their mothers and grandmothers. In Sweeping Beauty, a number of these poets illustrate how housekeeping’s repetitive motions can free the imagination and release the housekeeper’s muse. For many, housekeeping provides the key to a state of mind approaching meditation, a state of mind also conducive to making poems. The more than eighty contributors toSweeping Beauty embrace this state and confirm that women are pioneers and inventors as well as life-givers and nurturers.

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DUSTING
by Marilyn Nelson

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.
 
For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.
 
My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marilyn Nelson earned her BA from the University of California, Davis, and holds postgraduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (MA, 1970) and the University of Minnesota (PhD, 1979). Her books include Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems, 1996-2011 (2012); The Cachoeira Tales, and Other Poems (2005); The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (1997),  a finalist for the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the 1997 National Book Award, and the PEN Winship Award; Magnificat (1994); The Homeplace (1990), which won the 1992 Annisfield-Wolf Award and was a finalist for the 1991 National Book Award; Mama’s Promises (1985); and For the Body (1978). Her honors include the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, a Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. From 2001–2006, she served as the Poet Laureate of Connecticut.

Image
DUSTING
by Marilyn Nelson

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.
 
For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.
 
My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust. 

Image

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marilyn Nelson earned her BA from the University of California, Davis, and holds postgraduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (MA, 1970) and the University of Minnesota (PhD, 1979). Her books include Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems, 1996-2011 (2012); The Cachoeira Tales, and Other Poems (2005); The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (1997),  a finalist for the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the 1997 National Book Award, and the PEN Winship Award; Magnificat (1994); The Homeplace (1990), which won the 1992 Annisfield-Wolf Award and was a finalist for the 1991 National Book Award; Mama’s Promises (1985); and For the Body (1978). Her honors include the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, a Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. From 2001–2006, she served as the Poet Laureate of Connecticut.

Image
THE IDEA OF HOUSEWORK
By Dorianne Laux

What good does it do anyone
to have a drawer full of clean knives,
the tines of tiny pitchforks
gleaming in plastic bins, your face
reflected eight times over
in the oval bowls of spoons?
What does it matter that the bathmat’s
scrubbed free of mold, the door mat
swept clear of leaves, the screen door
picked clean of bees’ wings, wasps’
dumbstruck bodies, the thoraxes
of flies and moths, high corners
broomed of spider webs, flowered
sheets folded and sealed in drawers,
blankets shaken so sleep’s duff and fuzz,
dead skin flakes, lost strands of hair
flicker down on the cut grass?
Who cares if breadcrumbs collect
on the countertop, if photographs
of the ones you love go gray with dust,
if milk jugs pile up, unreturned,
on the back porch near the old dog’s dish
encrusted with puppy chow?
Oh to rub the windows with vinegar,
the trees behind them revealing
their true colors. Oh the bleachy,
waxy, soapy perfume of spring.
Why should the things of this world
shine so? Tell me if you know.

“The Idea of Housework” by Dorianne Laux appears in Sweeping Beauty: Contemporary Women Poets Do Housework, edited by Pamela Gemin (University of Iowa Press, 2005). The 212-page collection, which features work by over 80 poets, is available at Amazon.com.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Thankless, mundane, and “never done,”  contemporary women poets are still writing the domestic experience — sometimes resenting its futility and lack of social rewards, sometimes celebrating its sensory delights and immediate gratification, sometimes cherishing the undeniable link it provides to their mothers and grandmothers. In Sweeping Beauty, a number of these poets illustrate how housekeeping’s repetitive motions can free the imagination and release the housekeeper’s muse. For many, housekeeping provides the key to a state of mind approaching meditation, a state of mind also conducive to making poems. The more than eighty contributors to Sweeping Beauty embrace this state and confirm that women are pioneers and inventors as well as life-givers and nurturers.

Image
IRONING
by Vicki Feaver

I used to iron everything:
my iron flying over sheets and towels
like a sledge chased by wolves over snow;

the flex twisting and crinking
until the sheath frayed, exposing
wires like nerves. I stood like a horse

with a smoking hoof,
inviting anyone who dared
to lie on my silver padded board,

to be pressed to the thinness
of dolls cut from paper.
I’d have commandeered a crane

if I could, got the welders at Jarrow
to heat me an iron the size of a tug
to flatten the house.

Then for years I ironed nothing.
I put the iron in a high cupboard.
I converted to crumpledness.

And now I iron again: shaking
dark spots of water onto wrinkled
silk, nosing into sleeves, round

buttons, breathing the sweet heated smell
hot metal draws from newly washed
cloth, until my blouse dries

to a shining, creaseless blue,
an airy shape with room to push
my arms, breasts, lungs, heart into.

“Ironing” appears in Vicki Feaver‘s collection The Handless Maiden (Random House, 1994), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Vicki Feaver (born Nottingham , England, 1943) is an English poet. She studied music at Durham University and English at University College, London, and later worked as a lecturer and tutor in English and Creative Writing at University College, Chichester, where she is an Emeritus Professor. She now lives with her psychiatrist husband in Dunsyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, at the foot of the Pentland Hills. She is the author of The Book of BloodClose Relatives, and The Handless Maiden. The Book of Blood was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. (Read more at Wikipedia.org.)

Painting: “A Woman Ironing” by Edgar Degas (1873)

Image

CLEANING WINDOWS   
by Margaret Scott

I don’t much like cleaning windows. Ladders wobble.
You can get mugged by buckets. Upper windows
gleam when I’m twelve feet up but look worse
than before they were washed when I’ve clambered down.
You can see both sides at once—the liberal dilemma—
so it’s often hard to decide what’s splashed the glass—
soup or a passing bird. I feel watched by
opponents of aerosol cans, by consciousness-raisers,
by looming aproned figures from childhood,
by al those sparkling television girls
who show the smiling easy way to clean.
I can be brisk, keeping my mind on the job,
or switch my hand to on and watch the sky.
I can brood on reading the signs, on whether
it’s healthier to reflect or concentrate.
In any case the smears show up at night
and there in the darkened glass that shape again,
that anti-heroine, that dismal clown with the
oh-so-predictable foot in a bucket of suds,
the yell from the teetering ladder, the comical angst.

Image
WASHING WINDOWS
by Terry Collet

Your mother used to sit on the window 

Ledge of the tenement building and 

Wash the windows of each of the rooms. 

She’d push back the shutters and just 

Sit there with a bucket of warm water 

And a cloth and wash away. You were 

Always afraid she’d lean too far back 

And fall out and down to the ground 

Several storeys below with a heavy crash 

And break bones or neck or maybe die. 

But she’d just sit there her legs holding 

Onto the wall beneath her and push her 

Right hand holding the damp cloth 

Over the glass while her left hand held 

The metal bucket tight swishing the warm 

Water as she moved back and forth like 

Some lone trapeze artist on the high wire 

Without apparent fear or knowledge of 

Was going on in the street below with the

Passing of the walking dead as Father used 

To say and Mrs Febrile sitting on her window

Ledge with her daughter watching gossiping 

And nosing about who did what to whom 

While all the while you were frightened of 

Your mother slipping out the window waving
Her hands and arms as she fell to her doom.

Image
Dusting
by Marilyn Nelson

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.
 
For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.
 
My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.