Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Riehlife Poem of the Day: Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do”

What the Living Do
by Marie Howe
(From "What the Living Do")

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil
probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty
dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we
spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep headstrong blue and the sunlight
pours through

the open living room windows because the heat’s too high in here,
and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving or dropping a bag of groceries in the street
the bag breaking.

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday hurrying
along those
wobbling bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my
wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush.
This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called
that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter
to pass. We want
whoever to call or not to call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more
and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in
the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I am gripped by a
cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m
speechless:
I am living, I remember you.

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