“This Is What The Living Do”


What the Living Do

By Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.



Join the Conversation


  1. Dear Patricia,

    Hi, there, Patricia! Wow, my precious and dearest Sister, wow! I love this short story you have featured by Marie Howe. I love each and every one of your stupendous blog post articles! Each and every one of your fine and prime examples of fine writings for always rejuvenate, renew, and reinvigorate me! I remember when I was about 21 and my mother was using a butter knife as if it were a screw to try and repair something on the bathroom sink. She had pulled up the stopper out of the sink drain for some reason-I don’t remember why. She accidentally dropped the butter knife down the drain! Oh, she was so upset ! We had such plumbing problems with that bathroom sink, but thank Goodness it was not in the main bathroom. It was a bathroom just off of our kitchen. Thank Goodness there were other bathrooms in the house!

    I could sure relate to Marie Howe’s great short story! The winter sky does indeed have a deep, headstrong blue. I am so amazed at how the sunlight in the winter can still indeed stream through and provide at least a little relief from the blast of cold air in the winter. When I was younger and my physical disabilities were not quite as bad as they are now, I would take the city buses to and from my apartment when I would go grocery shopping. I can remember all too well many a time when the grocery bags would break, causing great frustration and annoyance for me! Thank Goodness that I had some extra bags with me so that I could reload my groceries into the new bags. Since my physical disabilities have become much worse as I have grown older, I have the great joy and blessings of riding the private, para-transit bus for the disabled. I ride this bus to and from my appointments, and sometimes I will take this to go and get my groceries. The drivers are so incredibly nice! They help me to load and to unload my groceries sometimes. The private, para-transit bus comes right to the door of my apartment complex, and takes me right to the door of the grocery stores, or right to the door of where I have my appointments, and then back home. I don’t drive due to my disabilities, and I don’t have a car, so this private, para-transit bus is such a great service which I cherish with all that I have! I am so incredibly blessed to have this service, and I am so, so very incredibly blessed in general even with whatever struggles and challenges in which I face, Sister Patricia!

    I, too, my dearest and precious Christian white sister, Patricia can relate to trying to carry a hot cup of coffee and spilling it by accident! This is so aggravating! Trying not to spill our coffee can be a tricky and a delicate balance. Sometimes I will go to a coffee shop, and I try to use my walker on wheels (it is a wheel rollator walker with wheels which has a bench on it for sitting and a basket underneath) and with one of my hands I try to carry the hot cup of coffee without spilling it but to no avail! It never fails (SMILE!).

    I, too, dear sister, can relate to slamming the car door shut on the passenger side as quickly as possible to shut out the freezing cold. By the time late January or early February has arrived, I, too, yearn for the end of winter and hope with all that I have that there will be an early spring. My hair blows in the winter wind and my afro becomes askew, awry, and misshapen. The winter sure does make my face and my lips so chapped! This is such a cool and a great short story by Marie Howe. I thank-you so my Sister Patricia for contributing this short story and featuring it! What a wonderful story with such clear and descriptive beauty!

    My dearest and precious Christian white sister, Patricia, I have such immense joy and blessings for always regularly visiting your spectacular blog post website and reading with such pleasure your brilliant and inspiring blog post articles! It also provides me with such joy, blessings, and pleasure to respond to your magnificent blog post articles! I am inspired good woman of God who you are, Patrica, and sister Christian woman who you are indeed, to become an even better Christian woman because of your empowering and inspiring witness! I for always keep you, Patricia, your dear husband, the rest of your dearest and darling family, and the dearest and darling friendsfamily at your greatly blessed Quaker meeting in my daily and frequent thoughts and prayers and in my heart! I thank all of you for thinking of me and praying for me-I can sure for feel your prayers for me and how all of you keep me covered in prayers and lift me up to our Good God Spirit! Thank-you!!!!!

    Patricia, please have a very nice, special, and a very blessed Wednesday, my Christian white sister who you are so, so very much as a white anti-racist and ally in solidarity!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely Always,

    Your Christian lesbian black sister in solidarity, Sherry Gordon

  2. What I realized today, dear Sherry, the anniversary of my father’s death four years ago, is that Marie Howe’s words had reminded me so much of the great lesson my dad gave me: to appreciate life, the trivial and the profound moments. (You do, too, I am learning.) And why I’d unconsciously decided to feature this! (The human heart is mysterious, isn’t it?)

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