“For most of history Anonymous was a woman.” ~ Virginia Woolf
And for most of history, Anonymous was doing all the housework.
Can you think of any unpaid activity as tedious, thankless or relentless? You know how the saying goes — nobody notices when you clean your house, they only notice when you don’t. There are so many things I’d rather do than dust, scrub, wash or vacuum.
And yet, I see how the routine of doing household chores is reassuring and makes me feel secure (at least I have a house to take care of!!). With so much in this life out of my control, polishing my favorite tea table, putting books away on their shelves, cleaning out the fridge — these are ways of making order out of chaos. These are things I can control.
Tasks like ironing can even be meditative, giving my brain a chance to rest, my mind the freedom to wander, reflect, imagine. And I have to admit that unloading the dishwasher can be pleasurable, because I love my dishes — I handpicked each plate, cup, bowl and platter. I love seeing the beauty in practical objects.:)
When I first read Kimberly Blaeser’s poem, I was reminded of the debt we owe to those women who came before us, who steadfastly kept the home fires burning while their spouses went out to be SOMEBODY. For those women who didn’t — or couldn’t aspire to careers outside the home, or whose lives were measured by how many towels were folded on any given day, or how many mouths they had to feed and feed and feed — I have renewed respect and admiration.
For in the midst of seeming drudgery, these women found ways to be creative while being productive. Blaeser’s cool concrete poem is also a list poem — a list of ways these women practiced patience and forbearance, displayed ingenuity, resourcefulness and versatility, and embraced the domestic sphere over which they alone reigned supreme. Even though they remain Anonymous to us, for the ones they took care of, the ones who loved them, they were truly SOMEBODY.
WHAT THEY DID BY LAMPLIGHT
by Kimberly Blaeser
Clean rice, handstitch
make pies, roll jingles
patch jeans, shake dice
clean fish, roll cigarettes
read from The Farmer
Braid rugs, mend nets, tell stories
write letters, bead, cut quilt squares
boil swamp tea, deliver their babies.
Darn socks, peel potatoes, drink coffee
shuffle cards, cut hair, can tomatoes
sift flour, bead, sing church songs.
Scrub socks, gossip.
sing country songs
make tobacco ties
braid sweet grass
prepare their dead.
wipe their tears.
Search penny jar for old coins
shell peas, cut birchbark patterns
thread matching buttons together.
Build fire, make soap, join their hands
knead bread, read seed catalogues, smoke
slice apples, squeeze color into margarine.
Change diapers, shuck corn, soak beans
rock their children, boil water, crochet doilies
clean sunflower seeds, can dill pickles.
Sharpen knives, eat, iron
nurse their babies
remember their dead.
The lovely and talented Catherine Flynn is hosting the Roundup at Reading to the Core. Tap dance on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week.
Note: I’m collecting links for a Kidlitosphere Poetry Month Roundup again, so if you’re doing something special on your blog, please submit your information by the end of next week via a comment on this blog or by sending me an email: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Appreciate your helping to spread the word, too. Thanks!
“There is, I suppose, no occupation in the world which has an influence on the efficiency and happiness of the members of nearly all other occupations so continuous and so permeating as that of the working housewife and mother.” ~ Eleanor Rathbone
Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.