Thirty-Six Lines in Defense of Clutter

I was a newlywed with a mother-
in-law whose house was spotless and white-gloved
where carpet remnants brightened her garage,
so in my house I tried for that mirage
dutifully with faith for a year or three
until life retrained me, and I made peace
with clutter, stuff in boxes, closed with tape,
my house a changeling for children and pets,
until yoga instructors and coaches
defined procrastination, advised us
to clean up clutter from homes, bodies, souls,
drawer by drawer, breath by breath where voices pull
against hearts locked to uninvited guests,
and there my former mother-in-law sits
not in my life, yet beside me, tempered
as a hammer that knocks the stakes of time,
returning me to Christmas Eves, bearing
boxes of unwanted toys for “her boys”
(gifts for me each year the same: an apron
and two long-sleeved, floor-length flannel nightgowns)
ignoring the joys of her granddaughter,
refusing to eat my roasted turkey
saying: “We stopped for barbeque and prawns,”
my heart and hands sinking beneath soap suds
where I learned to breathe and procrastinate
and though my kids refuse to ruminate,
I arm myself with rickety boxes
and fight dust mites, rats, and flooding waters,
ripping that duct tape, packing and storing
their scrawlings beside ancestral drawings,
penciled tallies wrapped in faded tissues,
voices that slumber on planks nailed to walls
to speak when kids return to this garage
to do the job passed down like a coat of arms
to relive and reclaim their papered coins
as faithful as silver and drafts of poems.

-Betty Scott

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