(Heard on NPR, presented by Susan Stamberg)
Morning Edition, Spetember 22, 2005 - Housework is a chore for many, an a pleasure for some. Poet Faith Shearin's mother sees it as the former.
"My mother despises what can never truly be done,"Shearin writes in the book Sweeping Beauty. "So she does not care for cooking or cleaning."
Love it or loath it, domestic work is a common experience and it's celebrated in Sweeping Beauty - Contemporary Women Poets Do Housework.
The punch of divorce, the slam of wars at the dinner table, the shroud of a bed sheet; editor and contributing poet Pamela Gemin says women's poems of housework are peppered with harsh realities.
And yet, for many of these baby boomer poets, there is beauty in housework. They find comfort in the rituals of ironing, sweeping and the occasional scrub.
An excerpt from "Sweeping Beauty":
The Idea of Housework
by Dorianne Laux
What good does it do anyone
to have a drawer full of clean knives,
the tines of tiny pitchforks
gleaming in plastic bins, your face
reflected eight times over
in the oval bowls of spoons?
What does it matter that the bathmat's
scrubbed free of mold, the door mat
swept clear of leaves, the screen door
picked clean of bees'wings, wasps'
dumbstruck bodies, the thoraxes
of flies and moths, high corners
broomed of spider webs, flowered sheets folded ans sealed in drawers,
blankets shaken so sleep's duff and fuzz,
dead skin flakes, lost strands of hair
flicker down on the cut grass?
Who cares if breadcrumbs collect on the countertop, if photographs
of the ones you love go gray with dust,
if milk jugs pile up, unreturned,
on the back porchnear the old dog's dish
encrusted with puppy chow?
Oh to rub the windows with vinegar,
the trees behind them revealin
their true colors. Oh the bleachy,
waxy,soapy perfume of spring.
Why should the things of this world
shine so? Tell me if you know.