Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 2017 Poetry Challenge - There are chores to be done.

Camille's Kitchen Sink

There are many chores to do around a home or yard. Some are daily chores, some weekly or monthly or yearly. When I was a child, the chore I hated most was dusting the Venetian blinds. They were made of metal, and I sometimes cut my hands while dusting them. When my grandmother mopped our wooden floors and spread polish on them, my sister and I had a great time. The old stockings we would put on became polishing clothes as we slide and “skated” around the room. When I was a little older, hanging laundry outside became my favorite chore—except when the weather was quite cold. I enjoyed working outside where I could hear the birds and feel the breeze. I still like to hang the laundry outdoors if the weather cooperates. I also enjoyed helping prepare meals. My sister Dorinda and I used to argue when we did dishes together until Mother told us we should sing. We put the hymn book in the kitchen window and sang a lot of hymns, as well as songs we learned at school and elsewhere. That didn’t totally end the arguments, but it helped a lot!

My husband grew up on a farm. He liked to work in the fields. His mom, having no daughters, did the indoor chores herself—and mowed the lawn. For most of Ed’s adult life, mowing the lawn was his favorite chore.

Camille A. Balla wrote a wonderful poem about washing the dishes:

At the Kitchen Sink

Above the sink
filled with lemony suds,
my hands swish and sweep
around a dinner plate.
I wash, rinse, put it in the rack.

Outside, the red maple stands,
rooted deeply over her domain
of greening grass, lilacs, lavender.
A soft breeze passes from there to here.
I wash, rinse, put it in the rack.

A saucer. Interesting how
this simple, yet dreaded task,
picks up its own rhythm—
links outside to inside, outer to inner.
I wash, rinse, put it in the rack.

Squeezing the cloth, my Mary-side
in sync with Martha-, dishes
like beads being said
one at a time—more than a decade.
I wash, rinse, put it in the rack.

Big mysteries don’t get solved,
but quiet answers float atop soapy
solution—inside a simple cup—
while listening on my feet.
I wash, rinse, put it in the rack.

~ Camille A. Balla

© Camille A. Balla. This poem was first published by St. Anthony Messenger.  
It was subsequently published by and is included in Camille's chapbook, Simple Awakenings.

My grandmother taught me how to bake bread—which was a regular chore for her mother’s generation of women. If it is a chore, it is one of my favorites. And, as my poem shows, my grandmother taught me a lot more than just the art of baking.

Grandmother’s Bread

When I asked Grandmother how to bake bread,
she said put on an apron, gather the ingredients.

Roll up your sleeves. Pour out a mound of flour.
Make a valley in the white mountain, she said,
and plant yeast. Let a little salt snow fall.
Make streams of egg white and melted butter flow
before plopping down golden yolk suns.

Let your fingers press and turn, mix and kneed,
turn and fold, kneed and turn to the rhythm
of your life, till it feels right. Roll it into a ball
round as the earth. Cover with a flour-sack towel.

Preheat the oven, grease the pans. Let the dough
rest while you sit with hot coffee and a neighbor.
Let the leaven have its way with friendship and dough.

Push the dough back down; press as life presses you
and your neighbor whose husband drinks too much.
Fold and knead, turn and fold, till it’s ready to grow.

Break and roll it into loaves. Put them in pans
and into the oven. In half an hour, pull out golden loaves.
Slice one hot, serve with honey-butter and fresh coffee
to that friend who craves bread, who needs something
warm and sweet to get her through another day.

~ Wilda Morris

@ Wilda Morris. First published in Alimentum.

Three More Chore Poems:
Pablo Neruda –“Ode to Ironing” -
Dorothy Aldis – “Setting the Table” -

The November Challenge:

The November Challenge is to submit a poem about doing chores (chores you do, or chores someone else does or has done). Your poem can be about a daily chore or one done less frequently. It could even be about seasonal chores (making stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey, for example). Your poem may have a light touch, or it may be poignant.

Title your poem unless it is a form that does not use titles. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem. Single-space and don’t use lines that are overly long (because the blog format doesn’t accommodate long lines). Read previous poems on the blog to see what line lengths can be accommodated.

You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet.

The deadline is November 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards; however winners are published on this blog. Please don’t stray too far from “family-friendly” language (some children read this blog). No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Decision of the judge or judges is final.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet. If a previously unpublished poem wins and is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “November Poetry Challenge Submission” in the subject line of your email. Include a brief bio that can be printed with your poem if you are a winner this month. Please put your name and bio under the poem in your email.

Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name (exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win) at the end of the poem.

Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment (no pdf files, please). Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all in capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of commas in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.

Poems shorter than 40 lines are generally preferred but longer poems will be considered.


Camille A. Balla, resides in a western suburb of Chicago where several of her poems have been inspired from the view outside her window or from her walks along the trails. Many of her poems have appeared in local and national publications, some of which have been published as greeting cards and gift items. In 2010, Camille published Simple Awakenings, a chapbook of poetry that lifts the ordinary into a delightful experience.

A mother of three and grandmother of six, Camille also enjoys digital photography, art fairs, garden walks, and dancing. Camille is a member of Illinois State Poetry Society.

© Wilda Morris