Saturday, September 8, 2018

Tasks (September 7, 2018)



Chores
by Maxine Kumin
All day he’s shoveled green pine sawdust

out of the trailer truck into the chute.
From time to time he’s clambered down to even
the pile. Now his hair is frosted with sawdust.
Little rivers of sawdust pour out of his boots.

I hope in the afterlife there’s none of this stuff

he says, stripping nude in the late September sun
while I broom off his jeans, his sweater flocked
with granules, his immersed-in-sawdust socks.
I hope there’s no bedding, no stalls, no barn

no more repairs to the paddock gate the horses

burst through when snow avalanches off the roof.
Although the old broodmare, our first foal, is his,
horses, he’s fond of saying, make divorces.
Fifty years married, he’s safely facetious.

No garden pump that’s airbound, no window a grouse

flies into and shatters, no ancient tractor’s
intractable problem with carburetor
ignition or piston, no mowers and no chain saws
that refuse to start, or start, misfire and quit.

But after a Bloody Mary on the terrace

already frost-heaved despite our heroic efforts
to level the bricks a few years back, he says
let’s walk up to the field and catch the sunset
and off we go, a couple of aging fools.

I hope, he says, on the other side there’s a lot

less work, but just in case I’m bringing tools.

Going Back to Bed


By J.D. McClatchey

Up early, trying to muffle
the sounds of small tasks,
grinding, pouring, riffling
through yesterday’s attacks

or market slump, then changing
my mind—what matter the rush
to the waiting room or the ring
of some later dubious excuse?—

having decided to return to bed
and finding you curled in the sheet,
a dream fluttering your eyelids,
still unfallen, still asleep,

I thought of the old pilgrim
when, among the fixed stars
in paradise, he sees Adam
suddenly, the first man, there

in a flame that hides his body,
and when it moves to speak,
what is inside seems not free,
not happy, but huge and weak,

like an animal in a sack.
Who had captured him?
What did he want to say?
I lay down beside you again,

not knowing if I’d stay,
not knowing where I’d been.



My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up The Task


By Jon Pineda
A basket of apples brown in our kitchen,
their warm scent is the scent of ripening,

and my sister, entering the room quietly,
takes a seat at the table, takes up the task

of peeling slowly away the blemished skins,
even half-rotten ones are salvaged carefully.

She makes sure to carve out the mealy flesh.
For this, I am grateful. I explain, this elegy

would love to save everything. She smiles at me,
and before long, the empty bowl she uses fills,

domed with thin slices she brushes into
the mouth of a steaming pot on the stove.

What can I do? I ask finally. Nothing, 
she says, let me finish this one thing alone.


The Man Moves Earth 

By Cathy Song

The man moves earth
to dispel grief.
He digs holes
the size of cars.
In proportion to what is taken
what is given multiplies—
rain-swollen ponds
and dirt mounds
rooted with flame-tipped flowers.
He carries trees like children
struggling to be set down.
Trees that have lived
out their lives,
he cuts and stacks
like loaves of bread
which he will feed the fire.
The green smoke sweetens
his house.

The woman sweeps air
to banish sadness.
She dusts floors,
polishes objects
made of clay and wood.
In proportion to what is taken
what is given multiplies—
the task of something
else to clean.
Gleaming appliances
beg to be smudged,
breathed upon by small children
and large animals
flicking out hope
as she whirls by,
flap of tongue,
scratch of paw,
sweetly reminding her.

The man moves earth,
the woman sweeps air.
Together they pull water
out of the other,
pull with the muscular
ache of the living,
hauling from the deep
well of the body
the rain-swollen,
the flame-tipped,
the milk-fed—
all that cycles
through lives moving,
lives sweeping, water
circulating between them
like breath,
drawn out of leaves by light.



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