What The Living Do

August 2, 2008

This poem is by Marie Howe. I came across it in a book at Anthropologie, and I love it. I hope you enjoy it, too.

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 on 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

wobbly 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 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’m 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.

I sometimes struggle with wanting to continue the day to day fight that is living, but this poem reminded me that that is what living is – a constant yearning and desire that pushes us forward and causes us to want to fight out another day, take in beautiful moments, and push forward in spite of the opposition life throws our way. It is easy to slip into a pattern of mere existence; when this happens, we have to push ourselves up and choose instead to live each day.

It is easy to get caught up in the daily cares of life and miss out on the moments that are truly living. This reminds me of Matthew 6:25-27…

“So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest and put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not.”

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  • Reply Lea August 11, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    i really like this poem a lot, too, the more i read it. it’s really interesting that this is life. thanks for sharing; i never knew about this poem before.


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