“Why do we resist this kind of peaceful joy?” Marie Howe wonders, in discussing her 2009 poem “Prayer” on NPR the other day. The 61-year old poet was the second eldest in an Irish Catholic family of nine children. She refers to herself as the “assistant mother” in that family, where gender roles were very specific in spite of the family’s liberal political views. “The girls served the boys,” she said. “We brought their food and cleared their plates. They had one or two jobs, like taking out the garbage.” Howe’s poetry examines real, everyday life, the “swaths of ordinary time” between “big events.”
“Why do we resist being still and focusing on what nourishes and deepens us?” Howe asks after reading “Prayer.”
Good question, and one I struggle with quite often.
“Even as I write these words I am planning to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.”
by Marie Howe
Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention—the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.
[from THE KINGDOM OF ORDINARY TIME, W.W. Norton & Co. 2008, $13.95]]