Sunday, August 11, 2013

the terrible chemistry of their kitchens.

Thoughts After Ruskin, by Elma Mitchell 
Women reminded him of lilies and roses.
Me they remind rather of blood and soap,
Armed with a warm rag, assaulting noses,
Ears, neck, mouth and all the secret places:
Armed with a sharp knife, cutting up liver,
Holding hearts to bleed under a running tap,
Gutting and stuffing, pickling and preserving,
Scalding, blanching, broiling, pulverising,
- All the terrible chemistry of their kitchens. 
Their distant husbands lean across mahogany
And delicately manipulate the market,
While safe at home, the tender and gentle
Are killing tiny mice, dead snap by the neck,
Asphyxiating flies, evicting spiders,
Scrubbing, scouring aloud, disturbing cupboards,
Committing things to dustbins, twisting, wringing,
Wrists red and knuckles white and fingers puckered,
Pulpy, tepid. Steering screaming cleaners
Around the snags of furniture, they straighten
And haul out sheets from under the incontinent
And heavy old, stoop to importunate young,
Tugging, folding, tucking, zipping, buttoning,
Spooning in food, encouraging excretion,
Mopping up vomit, stabbing cloth with needles,
Contorting wool around their knitting needles,
Creating snug and comfy on their needles. 
Their huge hands! their everywhere eyes! their voices
Raised to convey across the hullabaloo,
Their massive thighs and breasts dispensing comfort,
Their bloody passages and hairy crannies,
Their wombs that pocket a man upside down! 
And when all's over, off with overalls,
Quickly consulting clocks, they go upstairs,
Sit and sigh a little, brushing hair,
And somehow find, in mirrors, colours, odours,
Their essences of lilies and of roses.

image by Sally Mann.


  1. This is everything inside me right now. Crying the tears upon reading.

    Thank you for sharing x

    1. You're so welcome Laura. I think this is one of the most powerful poems I've ever read, I hope that it helped as well as brought the tears. xx

  2. Having a good day, are we?

    We used to sing a song, my best friend and I. It went, sweetly sings the donkey, at the break of day. We were the donkeys, albeit donkeys in love with sweet child flesh.

    1. I've had worse. It's a good day if I can summon enough mental energy to read a poem.

  3. re: ruskin's "lilies and roses," a bit more on the gal at his place - until she left him, that is.

  4. I like this one of Elma Mitchell's

    This poem is dangerous: it should not be left
    Within the reach of the children, or even by adults
    Who might swallow it whole, with possibly
    Undesirable side-effects. If you come across
    An unattended, unidentifiable poem
    In a public place, do not attempt to tackle it
    Yourself. Send (preferably in a sealed container)
    To the nearest centre of learning, where it will be rendered
    Harmless by experts. Even the simplest poem
    May destroy your immunity to human emotions.
    All poems must carry a government warning. Words
    Can seriously affect your heart.

  5. Replies
    1. One of the best photos ever. Sally Mann was one of my earliest inspirations.

  6. this is just perfect.

  7. This is so good. Thank you.

  8. Read this from the sofa where I've finally sought refuge after a day of potty training the eldest and breastfeeding the youngest in between unblocking a plughole, dealing with seriously unappetising laundry and opportunistically de-minging when I have a free hand. Yes, yes, and yes to this. Though I am not retiring upstairs in search of rose-scented things: it's all I can do not to immediately list today's thankless tasks to my other half and demand praise when he steps through the door, the poor sod!

  9. You choose the best poems. This is a good reminder for me to be braver- I recently met some adorable little neighbor children and let them play with our bunnies and cats, now they have been coming over I currently am hiding in the basement cutting MDF listening to their tiny fists pound pound pound my front door.


play nice.