Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Cleaning House

Last week my mother entered a nursing home. I've just returned to Virginia after spending several days looking through the accumulation of 84 years, trying to decide what to keep and what to let go. It's not an easy process. When my father died 4 years ago my mother significantly down-sized, leaving our family home for a much smaller space. Despite it's smaller size, there is still much to consider.

While cleaning house I came across a newspaper clipping regarding a late night automobile accident my father was in. That was a story I never heard as a child! There are the pictures and letters, of course, but sometimes the stories my mother told we more precious than the objects themselves.

This is all a terribly hard business. It makes me want pare down my own possessions and reminds me that the things are not as important as the people.

I don't have a form in mind this week, but I think writing about cleaning house is where I'm going. Won't you join me? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.


  1. Hi Tricia:

    I'm sorry you're going through such an upheaval, it's very confronting to watch parents getting older. I wish you and your family strength during this tough times. Here's my poem.

    Mom and I clean out Grandma’s nursing home apartment.
    Her lavender scent is still lurking within these 4 walls.
    Before moving here she donated most of her belongings
    To our church. Anything else important went to us;
    I can’t wait to get married in her wedding dress when
    I come of age. All that’s left now are 5 tattered shirts, 5 faded
    Pants, 2 pairs of lived in shoes and a scuffed up transistor radio
    With its needle resting on a 24 hour jazz station. I place these
    Items into a box marked Grandma’s Belongings when I hear a
    Gasp, I turn around and see Mom red faced, tears spilling out
    Of her orbs. I grab a chair, sit her down, notice she’s holding a
    Spit shined silver frame that’s hugging a black and white photo.
    I see Grandma with her arm around Mom who’s holding me as
    An infant; we’re all smiling at the camera like we heard the
    Funniest joke ever. It’s as if time washed away our ages.
    Judging by Mom’s wracking sobs she hasn’t seen this in a
    Good long while. I’ve never seen this picture … ever. Mom
    Digs her face into my shoulder as I stare at a photograph
    That will now forever be incomplete.

    (C) Charles Waters 2013 all rights reserved.

  2. That's a hard thing, Tricia. I see it coming a few years down the road...

    Mom Asks

    “What will you do with all this stuff when I die?”
    Mom asks. She has forgotten that the other day
    I found a note Dad had written, nothing special,
    something about work. She didn’t throw it away.

  3. P.S. I have an older poem about this (or at least, after a death) that was published in Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell's Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School earlier this year:

    Grandma’s House

    The boxes we packed full of books
    are gone now, the chairs
    and pictures, the throw rugs,
    the china cats, even the dust.

    When we walk down the stairs,
    my mom takes one more look
    around the empty hall,
    closes the last window, touches
    the bare white wall. And there
    by the door, she hugs me
    hard and tight,
    whispering like Grandma did,
    “Everything will be all right.”

    But her voice quivers, and nothing
    is the way it used to be
    as Mom steps out into the night
    and turns the key.

    --Kate Coombs, 2013
    all rights reserved