Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Tearful Dishwasher

She’s moved back in and with her
comes the tearful dishwasher. While
she talks to me at the kitchen table, an
unlit cigarette in her hand, he stands
at the sink handling the dishes. Each
plate and bowl is held between two 
hands, turned over, rinsed, placed
in the dishwasher. All lined up. He 
can’t help himself crying. Stupidly, 
I say something about slicing onions. 
He stops a moment, continues on as if
he’s climbed a mountain. Each dish
is wept over then he makes his way 
to bed. There is no excuse for this; 
she doesn’t offer any. It's just

Today is the day of the divided
fry pan. To think, he says, I have                  
lived this long undivided, hadn’t
even imagined such a thing. Three
sections to keep tomatoes from
bacon and bacon from eggs and
eggs from tomato. No juices, no

The tearful dishwasher is offering
to make dinner. Something liquid,
it’s more forgiving.

                         Mary McCallum

Not quite sure what this is. Had a lot of grief floating around me these past few weeks with friends losing their parents, and I had some collected or 'found' lines sitting in a file, some of which found their way into here. I also keep hearing of the importance of accepting grief as a companion for a while and realising that it can stay for years and years -- and in fact never go. One therapist told a friend how it lives on inside like a deep red hole, and we pack things around it and sometimes don't see it for a long time, then suddenly all the packing comes away and there it is deep and raw. Not gone at all. 

When you've read this Tuesday Poem, please hang out a little on the hub where a poem by the great Alastair te Ariki Campbell resides this week, and in the sidebar - MORE POEMS! See you there. 

Click HERE for Tuesday Poem


Anonymous said...

This is great Mary. I love the interplay between the mundane activities of daily life (washing up, cooking) and the grief that we all experience - where do we put grief? How do we express it? Just lovely.

Helen Lowe said...

I have also heard grief/trauma described as a room on which we keep the door mostly closed, but every now and then something bangs it open... I certainly feel that way about the Christchurch earthquakes and all the devastation, hardship and emotional fallout of the aftermath: survival is about keeping the door closed as much as possible because carrying on would be impossible if it were open.

T. said...

Oh yes and yes and yes!!

Especially the divided pan where everything is compartmentalized.

I love this, Mary.

(And, do you know this blog? It's one of my faves:

Elizabeth Welsh said...

Mary, I was particularly drawn to the form of the poem - the separation of 'night', 'morning' and 'afternoon'. I really ached for how the 'night' stanza is the longest (physically - on the page, and otherwise), the most fraught, the hopeless. It seems to dominate.

Mary McCallum said...

Thank you dear blog readers. This is an odd sort of poem for me because it came from a found phrase which led to a weighted feeling which I've been feeling growing around me in people I care about these past weeks - I am pleased the feeling has been transferred somehow alchemically to you.

There's something about dishwashing isn't there - all that water, the mundanity and usefulness and inevitability of it... and the inevitability of dealing with grief at some stage in our lives.

A room, Helen, and a shut door - I do so feel for you and all Cantabrians.

Elizabeth, thank you. I felt that too about Night, its weight there. Isn't it always the toughest time of day?

T - I saw that blog in your blog roll and visited it a long time ago but haven't since. I will do it again forthwith!

Mary McCallum said...

T - checked out the dishwasherstears blog - astonishing! I am captivated - so much beautiful writing - loved this...

With that wild girl of ours living in the back now with her little baby, everybody healthy and happy and nobody locked up and nobody acting scandalous and no sleepless nights waiting for the cops or the hospital to call, it feels a little bit like the world got put together again after somebody shook it all up like a snowglobe for a few years.

lillyanne said...

I really love this poem Mary - don't know whether to laugh or cry (except I almost did both with the divided frying pan).

Claire Beynon said...

Fascinating piece, dear Mary.

How odd you'd not met Scott, the tearful dishwasher himself. Something must surely have been going on subconsciously. . . Knowing Scott (through his blog but also because he contributed text to the film-poem I posted this week! Serendipity is alive and well ; ), I found these lines especially moving -

". . . Each
plate and bowl is held between two
hands, turned over, rinsed, placed
in the dishwasher. . ."

I saw him - the man - and 'it', the machine. Isn't the blurring of lines a poignant thing?


(and now - in line with blogger's instructions - I am to 'please prove I am not a robot' as I attempt to decipher the number/letter code without my glasses!)

Anonymous said...

It's very poignant Mary. and dishwashing (except for pots)is wonderful therapy. almost like scrubbing things away. And then there's the hands in warm water and the bubbles...if you soap your thumbs and forefingers and hold them ogether in a pear shape you can blow wonderful bubbles...:-)