Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Responsibility

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Outside everything is blue with the rain
that's coming and going all morning
and inside I am washing dishes.
What a lot of dishes there are to
be done--
the sink is full,
full of smeared red plates and
silverware sticky along its tines and
glasses touched only by our lips and water,
and meanwhile the backyard,
my downstairs neighbor's,
is full,
a dirt floor covered with a scatter of
pieces of wood and
other loose things of some kind,
from the renovation they're doing,
and surrounded by the various brick walls,
or most of them brick,
and hung over with any number of trees.
There may be drops on
those leaves.
Inside I'm washing the colander,
which is hard because of the way water rushes
through it,
rather than washing
over it,
and this other pan is going to have
to soak.
I'll leave it
to soak, along with the dish that has egg
on it.
Outside I can hear the sound of something
in the trees:
maybe a circular saw from downstairs,
maybe a forceful breeze,
maybe a voice;
the water from the faucet covers it mostly,
and all the other sounds, too,
some covered so well I can't even know to
wonder about them.
Bowls clean up easily, drip
on the drying rack over
the sink, drip into
the sink, onto
the other dishes, which I clean
one at a time.
It will be good to have the sink
empty,
cleaned out so that you can see the
overhead bulb's work
dully in the metal.
I am doing something.
I wash out
the baby's bottles, get the sponge all the way
in there, you have to be careful to
do these things exactly
well.
Outside the rain starts up again or
maybe just threatens to. I'm making
progress with the dishes, now, really
moving them from the sink to
the rack so that we can use them
again.
Soon I'll get to
the ones that are soaking.
Soon I'll finish this so that I can
have that sink fully
exposed
and so that I can
think about what's to be done next.
Outside the world
is changing colors and
bathing in this wet morning
and calling
out
and all manner of things,
some corner of which would be
visible from the kitchen window if I
turned,
but I am washing these dishes,
and I am really getting
somewhere
with them.


David Harris Ebenbach is the author of two short story collections, Between Camelots (University of Pittsburgh Press), winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, and Into the Wilderness, a collection about parenting that won the Washington Writers Publishing House Prize, forthcoming in 2012.He is also the author of a non-fiction guide to the creative process called The Artist’s Torah, forthcoming in 2013. Please visit his website for more information.


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Wow! I really loved this! And I have to say I love that it was written by a man. My husband, too, is the dishwasher in the house. The last time he went out of town, I realized how long it takes to wash dishes. This is the work of parenting, I think-- to be present in the long work, and to find the beauty in it. Especially when no one is noticing.
Wonderfully meditative poem.
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