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Reusing Words

January 19, 2012

When I was double-checking to see if the word “torched” in the poem “How I Became Impossible” was a typo or not, I found this poem—and a bunch of other poems I hadn’t read before–at Not Your Mama’s Bookshelf.

The poem I found apt for this week is “Reusing Words,” by Hal Sirowitz. I’ve had more help and fewer deadlines the first part of this month, with Eleanor at home, but now she’s getting ready to go back to Iowa and the rest of us are entering into the dark and deadline-intensive part of the year. In addition to playing in a bunch of chess tournaments, Walker has to work in some college visits. In addition to thinking of something to cook for dinner at least a couple of times a week, I have to add in taking care of Eleanor’s aging rabbit and, some nights, driving home on rural roads with aging tires in falling snow.

To the men left in my household, I know I’m going to start sounding like a broken record–there’s an old metaphor for you. Like a song on repeat. Like everything I say is the same every day.

Reusing Words

Don’t think you know everything,
Father said, just because you’re good
with words. They aren’t everything.
I try to say the smallest amount possible.
Instead of using them indiscriminately
I try to conserve them. I’m the only one
In this household who recycles them. I
say the same thing over & over again,
like “Who forgot to turn out the lights?
Who forgot to clean up after themselves
in the bathroom?” Since you don’t listen
I never have to think of other things to say.

Isn’t the line “I try to say the smallest amount possible” a great line? That’s what I feel like when I tell the 15-year-old who is studying chess and chemistry that he needs to empty the dishwasher. That’s what I feel like when I bring my husband’s clean laundry into the bedroom in the morning and hang up the shirts while leaving the rest of it in the basket for him to put away in the evening, employing various methods to keep the cats out of it, at least for that one day, while it’s still clean. That’s what I feel like at this point in the winter, because one of the phrases my parents continually recycled was the one about “if you can’t say anything nice….” Can you say anything nice about a daily inch of snow and eleven degrees at night?

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 8:19 am

    Good poem (and you know I hoard those words). It’s especially appropriate this morning as I am cleaning the cat water filter. Apparently I am the only one who notices that it’s dirty and must be cleaned.

    I can’t say anything nice at all about temps below 20F. Our poor heat pump struggles and since we live in a basement, it gets chilly in here.

    • January 20, 2012 7:48 am

      Noticing that things are dirty sometimes results in not just reusing words but also not even saying many of them.

  2. freshhell permalink
    January 19, 2012 9:00 am

    I have almost too much to say about this but if I have to keep to nice things, I will indeed have to keep it to the smallest amount possible. Which is: PEOPLE!

    • January 20, 2012 7:50 am

      People…can’t live with em, can’t live without em. Unless you’re an island. Are you an island, Freshhell? (John Donne would say you’re not.)

  3. January 19, 2012 9:28 am

    With an open floor plan between the first and second floor, usually closed teenage boy bedroom doors, electronic ear plugs on their music, and my own increasing lack of personal mobility, communication with teens requires saying the same thing in varied tones and decible settings. I liked the poem much more than the realization of my own too loud voice saying things repetitively.

    • January 20, 2012 7:51 am

      Yeah, we have those closed doors and earbuds, too. You make me realize that sometimes I use the tone I used to use for my hard-of-hearing father on the teenagers…

  4. January 19, 2012 9:53 am

    I can say something nice about the snow, only because I so much love the sound that I hear from my front porch of the kids sledding on the hill down the street. 6 inches headed our way tomorrow. Stocking up tonight. Conserving food with my words. It is the way of winter.

    • January 20, 2012 7:53 am

      I was hoping for something like that from a northerner! Sometimes I don’t mind staying in and watching it snow, but this winter is not one of those times. We have too much travel scheduled. Perhaps foolishly, since I already missed one trip due to a canceled flight.

  5. January 19, 2012 10:41 am

    I would love some snow. We’ve had none to speak of, except for that freak Halloween storm that knocked all the trees down and the power out for a week.

    • January 20, 2012 7:54 am

      I think you’re about to get some of the snow coming our way tonight.

  6. January 19, 2012 10:42 am

    PS From the little snip I saw on FB, I thought this was going to be a plagiarism – you know, reusing all the words…

    • January 20, 2012 7:54 am

      Ha! Or it could have been one of the “sandwiched by spam” genre!

  7. January 19, 2012 12:32 pm

    I cuold, but I think I’m going to have to try to find something nice to say about rain instead. It’s okay — I like rain, too.

    • January 20, 2012 7:55 am

      We just watched “Midnight in Paris” and are now giggling at the thought of anyone liking to walk in the rain, anywhere.

  8. January 19, 2012 8:21 pm

    I very much relate to this poem and post! I feel like I should get an award for environmental actviism because of the level at which I recycle my words with my son!!!

    • January 20, 2012 7:56 am

      Good for you, Jenners! You’ve left more words for the rest of us!

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