Poem-a-Day Friday: Jane Kenyon (again)

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Last night, after the kids snuggled into beds and the cat (who is getting better!) ventured out of his sick room to sleep on the couch, I ate a frozen pizza from Target by myself and scrubbed the toilet and the floors. There’s something special about cleaning in preparation of something. My parents are coming for the weekend and whenever I clean for them, I remember my mom cleaning for my grandmother’s visits. It’s just something daughters do for mothers…and it’s good. (Or, at least, it can be.)

As I cleaned and was feeling sad about the Target pizza and sad about wanting to go to bed but mopping instead, I thought about this poem. I know I’ve already introduced you to Jane Kenyon more than once. But this one is an old friend who usually arrives just in time. It makes me want to scour floors and grow old and wise.

Finding A Long Gray Hair

by Jane Kenyon

I scrub the long floorboards
in the kitchen, repeating
the motions of other women
who have lived in this house.
And when I find a long gray hair
floating in the pail,
I feel my life added to theirs.

 

From Room to Room, Alice James Books: Cambridge, MA, 1978.

Comments

  1. fiona lynne says:

    Do you find this poem more encouraging or sad? I can’t quite decide between those two emotions – each time I read it over I end with a different one…

    • michaboyett says:

      I always feel that way with Jane Kenyon’s poems. I think that’s why I’m so moved by her. She’s sad most of the time, I think, but I’ve always read this as a positive poem: the beauty of cleaning the same space in the same way as the women who’ve gone before you (and the connection of that act), the power of aging and moving toward them, the dailyness of cleaning and taking care and growing older. And it’s said in so few words. I really love that.