tea kettle wisdom

Sometimes when we write into the absolutely ordinary we find some surprises.

One of the prompts I gave at the last Writing the Flood prompt was to make a list of very common household items, and then I read the poem “Towels.” We let an item from our list choose us (my list included: toothbrush, towels, old shoes, coffee cup, pillow, tea kettle, bird feeder…) and then we wrote for about 10 minutes. This is what came for me:

The tea kettle is all stain and whistle, occupying a permanence in the finite space on top of the stove. You bought it years ago, with an old lover, when the relationship was new – then, just out of the box, the kettle was all stainless shine, reflected what was fresh and possible between you wen you set it atop the angled burner in the tiny kitchen of the first apartment you shared.

It did its part – holding a boil, calling the alarm – and over the years that shiny surface got sludged with grease spatters and then began to rust. You waited for the day when the bottom would drop out. You didn’t understand that the kettle was what would come with you to the next apartment, instead of the lover. You took harvest and haven in its stained heft, occupying space on the stove top, steady and volatile. At least the kettle would stop screaming when you removed the flame.

Turn on the gas, put a teabag in the handmade mug, light a candle, and wait – this was your morning ritual. This was your meditation, your centering. No lover or love’s lack could threaten that particular dark serenity, the space that emerged around you in he earliest hours when everything in the world was asleep except for those two flames – even your hand, trying to remember how to hold a pen and make it make words on a blank page, seemed still to be pulling from sleep. The low rise of that whistle called you to your feet, demanded attention. Tea kettle like wailing infant, tea kettle like wise refrain, tea kettle that morning coda: stop the screaming, fold hands over handle, bury the tea in the boil, release that day’s scent into the room.

The kettle isn’t needed – you can boil water in a pot if you have to – so it becomes a small luxury for you who have relinquished your hold on such possibility. You put your hands around what’s too hot, and you wait.

Make your own list of everyday objects, and choose one to write about today. Give yourself at least 10 minutes — 15 if you’re really going — and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for all the ways you find beauty in the ordinary and the everyday. Thank you for your words yesterday, this weekend, and today.

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