Lares and Penates
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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)
Lares and Penates