October 24, 2012
Poetry: House Cleaning by Kathleen Norris
by Kathleen Norris
The dreamer descends through the basement to see what
was valuable in her inheritance.
Nor Hall, The Moon and the Virgin
Kneeling in the dust, I recall
the church in Enna, Sicily
where Ceres and Proserpine reigned
until a Pope kicked them out
in the mid-19th century.
This is my Hades, where I find
what the house has eaten.
"And Jessica was left with only
the raw, sheer, endless terror
of being alone in the world."
"We are alone, Jessica," I say aloud;
the whole box of romances must go.
I keep the photograph of the young girl
under cotton woods.
Her belly is still flat, not yet a fruit
the child shining in its membrane like a pomegranate
She ended both their lives,
and no mother's rage
could bring her back.
I leave her with the book of fairy tales:
still safe, held fast,
in Sleeping Beauty's bramble forest.
I could use some sleep.
What I do must be done
each day, in every season,
like a liturgy. I want to pray
to Mary Magdalene, who kept seven demons,
one for each day of the week.
How practical; how womanly.
My barren black cat rubs against my legs.
I think of the barren women
exhorted by the Good Book
to break into song:
we should sing, dear cat,
for the children who will come in our old age.
The cat doesn't laugh,
but I do. She rolls in dust
as I finish sweeping.
I empty the washer
and gather what I need for the return:
the basket of clothes
and bag of clothes-pins,
a worn spring jacket in need of mending.
Then I head upstairs, singing an old hymn.