I stop writing the poem
“I stop writing the poem to fold the clothes. No matter who lives or who dies, I’m still a woman.
I’ll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt together. Nothing can stop our tenderness.
I’ll get back to the poem. I’ll get back to being a woman. But for now there’s a shirt, a giant shirt in my hands, and somewhere a small girl is a tanding next to her mother watching to see how it’s done.”
~ Tess Gallagher
Tess Gallagher wrote the poem above at what was probably the most fragile period of time in her life. Her life partner Raymond Carver just died six months after marrying. She was in the vortex of writing poems for the soon-to-be-iconic collection “Moon Crossing Bridge”, so the pause for reflection on the healing nature of mundane tasks, and the importance of continuing with the seemingly endless chores life demands of us was profound for her.
We can feel the grief behind her words.
She describes the ordinary yet necessary chore of folding clothes, and we get it.
Sometimes, when it comes to ‘being of service’, we can’t even manage to be of service to ourselves. We are forced by the worst circumstances to sort through closets we don’t even want to look at, clean up after an endless barrage of children-at-home days, and return a myriad of well meaning emails and phone calls, when our strongest need is to curl up under the blankets and never leave our bed.
But that’s exactly why it’s so important to make ourselves a cup of tea and do the laundry. It’s important to put one foot in front of the other, scrub a floor, make a pot of soup, fold a shirt.
“No matter who lives or who dies”, we always have laundry. We can either avoid these small, repetitive acts of mundane service or use them to ground us and remind us:
There will be a tomorrow and life goes on.