Lares and Penates

By Caki Wilkinson Caki Wilkinson
The suburbs? Well, for heaven’s sake   
who wouldn’t choose the absolute   
convenience? Cheap, a quick commute,   
and close to Lowe’s, a Steak ’n Shake,   
our own police and DMV,   
          a library, a lake.   
Esteemed domestic diplomats,   
we trump conundrums (His and Hers)   
and smother any fuss that stirs   
the air of habit habitats.   
It’s not an easy job; in short,   
          we wear a lot of hats.   

And so, we’re grateful, from the street   
you’d miss the issues we’re ignoring:   
termites and week-old dishes mooring,   
barnacled with shredded wheat,   
the bunch of brown bananas stuck   
          with a yellow Post-it: Eat!

We dictate chores, but understand   
the clock moves faster than we do   
and focus on those old and blue   
dilemmas of the second hand:   
inheritance, ill-fitting pants,   
          smoke, rumors, foreclosed land.   

Winters, we help keep track of taxes,   
sort copies Xerox-hot in piles,   
or prune unruly hanging files   
(a fixture of our weekend praxis).   
There’s always something. In this house,   
          only the cat relaxes—

because the clutter drives a need   
for more, more room, more hours, food,   
more use of the subjunctive mood . . .   
tomorrow, yes, we must succeed   
in keeping peace and making time   
          to garden, and to read.   

Still, every spring our porches spawn   
insects we can’t identify   
and ferns turned freeze-dried octopi.   
They spill into the arid lawn   
with diasporic fliers, clover   
          and choirs of woebegone   

house sparrows whose incessant cheeping   
recalls the gloomy Ubi sunt,   
our soundtrack to the nightly hunt   
for whatever is downstairs, beeping.   
(As if the sleepless wanted some   
          reminder they’re not sleeping.)   

But don’t fret; clarity, if brief,   
is possible. The best folks see   
an artfulness in entropy—   
the rust, the dust, the bas-relief   
of Aquafresh-encrusted sinks.   
          So when, in disbelief,   
a lady skims new catalogs,   
convinced her luster’s fading, faded,   
and, afraid to end up jaded,   
doughy in orthotic clogs,   
she gracefully accepts her fate   
          and rises early. Jogs.

Source: Poetry (December 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2008


Caki Wilkinson's poems have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Black Warrior Review, Southwest Review, and elsewhere, She is a PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati.

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Poems by Caki Wilkinson

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SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Life Choices

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