Meryl Natchez

Endless Chores Ode

How I used to hate the way they were never finished,
drifts of laundry spilled along the couch, the sink
stifled with dishes, no counter
that didn’t need wiping, stove top 
layered in magma, don’t even open the oven door,
the surprise of cat shit in the closet,
the grime in the shower, dust bunnies
instead of lust. And even if you cleaned it all up,
if you somehow summoned the energy
and focus and got it for one moment
under control, as soon as you put the last glass
on the shelf and went for a walk, it would all
start over again, the sink full by the time you got back.
And the repetitive, ineffectual nagging that went with it, 
so that I became the harridan, the hag of chores. 
The tyranny of this life of scrubber and rag,
need and need and need the basso ostinato,
the ambient drone of the ever undone 
a mountain of sound I was stuck under, 
struggling for oxygen, desperate
for one uncluttered spot, my only escape 
a wormhole to paid work.
How many years 
was my path obscured by junk? 
When was the first time
I stood at the sink at peace
with the suds and the crud?
When did I first fold tiny shirts
from the drier welcoming their warmth, roll 
socks into pairs taking pleasure in their texture?
It must have been the day the house
stopped seething, the floors steadied a bit, the day
we made shortbread and cleaned up together, 
eating the buttery squares from the pan. 
Maybe the day I got up from my desk
and discovered the beat in the broom, 
the dance of the daily, how Aretha pulsed
through all the unplanned griefs and loss, 
the failures, the terrible,
unpredictable phone calls, the relief 
of something to do, my reliable, stalwart companion, 
always available, when nothing else
was getting me through.