Online since August 2002

Practical Life

David Fraser lives in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. He is the founder and editor of Ascent Magazine, Aspirations for Artists, published since 1997. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in 28 journals, including Three Candles, Regina Weese, Ardent and Ygdrasil. He has recently published a collection of his poetry, "Going to the Well," and another of his short fiction, "The Dark Side of the Billboard." David is currently the BC Federation of Writers Regional Director for The Islands Region.

So much relies on
a life of practicality.
Floors obsessed with being clean,
dust afraid to settle on the mantelpiece,
in fact, dust is not allowed to even land;
time spent worrying
over pennies in a jar,
maybe sorted by their date;
knives washed and dried and oven-baked
backed up in recycled plastic bags from milk,
a life revolving round
clean, clear light
in freshly washed windows,
all things kept and cared for,
little tiny boxes plastic wrapped, tied,
the overlapping bagging trick,
with string and ties and
bags again and string and ties and bags again,
all hidden objects looking as if new.

It comes from history, her story
as a child, the oldest
raising brothers, keeping house.

Ah, spotless porcelain toilet bowls,
a streakless shower stall,
in fact, an unused shower stall,
a tub that one could eat a salad from.
I shake my head.
An always shining bathroom sink
I splash some water there
just for spite for making me
so damned obsessed as well,
but I suspect she sneaks back in
to wipe it down.
I've begun to watch her closely now
just in the corner of my eye
but I've never caught her yet.
Even plants are terrified to drop a leaf,
the spider mites know better than to come around,
too many friends might clutter up the house,
outside news hovering on the surface
is swiped away along with dust.

And in that universe
of places and their place,
repetitive routes and routines,
a life of dull frugality
Such a life of eat and sleep
and serve and clean
to sweep and vac
and dust and mop
and wash and iron
but never dream
never dream
never dream past tiny, quiet, sad
moments that are nice.

I've tried to figure out
the polyester everything,
the mud-brown quilted
gulag jacket that she wears,
not the breathable,
waterproof for Christmas
that I bought for her,
the one that smartly, loosely hangs
and trendy crumples up.
I've tried to figure out
her preferences in clothes.
Ah, they do not wrinkle,
they always hang the same
without the iron.
Such cleanliness?
Such tidy order in the house?
But who am I to ask?
I love her, even though
her nitro puffer
her nitro puffer
when she's resting at the Shopper's Drug Mart bench,
when she needs it most
when she needs it most
sits on her dresser back at home.
I ask?
She says, "Oh, it gets too foamy in my purse."

— 2003
A shorter version previously published in Ygdrasil, November 2003, and in the collection "Going to the Well," Ascent Aspirations Publishing.

Published October 2006


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