Friday, January 09, 2009

Possessions, residency

Cleaning is providing me with a way to focus my mind.  Perhaps it's the repetitive nature of the tasks involved: the endless rolling of loads of laundry through sorting baskets, through the machines that wash and dry them, loaded warm into receiving tubs and carried to the next level of the house for folding, to the next level for distributing, wearing, dropping into the dirty clothes baskets, and back down again to the basement--the whole process like some sort of reverse digestion--through the round doors of the front loaders, churned and tossed and all.

Maybe it's the parallelism: swiping the top of every door molding in the house, inside and out, the Arts & Crafts backband like a small shelf standing away from the wall, collecting a thick layer of dust all the months and even years she wasn't really cleaning.  Remembering to run the cloth over each edge, finding the edge, replicating form and structure, or finding it--kind of like building a poem.  Each of the doors with the fingerprints wiped clean, the poem's stanzas cleared of clutter.

Vacuuming the edges of the rooms, behind the furniture, wiping down the baseboards, the fronts of the kitchen cabinets, cleaning the glass fronts of some of them, the small windows on the front door and the large glass panels on the back door.  Cleaning produces a settling effect of the mind, apple-pie-order was an old Anglicization of a French saying about cleaning that I can't quite recall.  All in its proper order, proper related linguistically to appropriate, property, and, thus, linked to 'mine,' the self and its internal measurements of its own integrity.  Aretha Franklin singing, "give me my propers when you get home," in "Respect."

The hardwood floors are starting to glow again, cleaned and polished now with the right products.  I am taking possession of my house, of what is mine.  My grandmother used to speak of how good it felt to have things just the way you want them--the towels and the clothes folded just so, the cutlery and kitchen implements put back in the sensible places.  All this, too, is a metaphor for my own return to writing, which begins with the repossession of the self, the settling of the self in its proper place, the remembrance of residency and the revisiting of the neglected, dusty (or less so now) parts of the brain.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

The poetry of cleaning. You've left out the ironing, the back and forth, the press of the switch that lets out the steam, the steam itself. And then the press, the wrinkle disappears, the smell of straightness.