Responsibility, poetry and silence

The poet’s work is putting silence around everything worth remembering, says Natalie Merchant in her gorgeous (74-page) iTunes, digital booklet for her latest album Leave Your Sleep.

She’s right. My wheels are turning. I’m a poet by trade, duty and definition. I have a propensity for silence, an attachment to slowness and a visceral love of words (every opportunity to communicate the precise).

Now, place the poet in her house and ask her to write a book about homemaking and reality.

I’m experiencing little revelations (and resultant upheaval) lately as I dabble and dote and work my way through fears surrounding various areas of homelife: dusting, mending, daily demands for sustenance and resulting clean-up, etc. Of course, none of these things ever occur solely (and thus manageably); then add our work, social lives, other responsibilities, other (unrelated) facets of ourselves.

My stresses and fears are certainly the result of this compound. Surprisingly, the solutions to each of my home-based dilemmas has involved moments of silence, critical thinking and a few helpful books. In each case, from pickles to mildew to a whip stitch, I’ve uttered these words, “I’m smart; I can figure this out.” [thanks to my mother for instilling this mentality in me]

This is the poet’s approach to housework, everyday life and projects like the long-dreaded mending pile. Sequestering the task at hand, applying a little practicality, devoting enough critical thinking until a solution shakes itself loose. When you build a fort of silence around a particularly ominous task, there’s nowhere to channel noxious energies except into solutions.

There’s so much noise these days—images, words, sounds and combinations thereof; it’s a wonder we manage critical thinking at all. I have faith in you, though. I know you can handle it all—your house, your politics, your artful exploits—with consistency amongst each. You’re smart; you can figure this out.

It’s not more work to incorporate thoughtfulness into your routine; rather, it’s just quieter at times.

Saturday night, I’m listening to this poem put to music by Ms. Merchant and letting my mind spin. As the late, great Grace Paley said, It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy/to hang out and prophesy.

Cultivate your inner-poet; she’s in there somewhere, ready to help connect all the loose ends.