Homework by Tom Clausen

Snapshot Press (2000) Liverpool, UK

this quiet morning
even the bar of soap
falls apart

constantly dust and
peeling paint and
molds and cracks-
this house we call home
holding us

cleaning the poop out
his little Superman

how long he cries
for the little shell lost
on the way home

with her proud little bean plant
the break in her face
as she sees me

home from work…
the little one brings me
an empty wine bottle

after speaking importantly
she quickly resumes
sucking her thumb

playing a child’s game
I learn all
his rules

losing control of my son
– and myself

all through
his temper tantrum
her calm

as I sit in thought
she moves briskly
about the room,
stirring the chill
in the air

to the cat:
“that is complete and
utter nonsense”

without consent
my old sneakers
in the trash

we bicker
all through the house
… cleaning

my wife admits
she is not perfect,
but is glad I am

now that I’m over
my bad mood,
she’s in one

to the goldfish
she speaks
more softly

revealed so long
this grain of wood
on our floor-
the distance yet
we have to go

just home from work
back to back
phone solicitations

after her letter
no heart to open
a bill

our son spills his milk,
not an iota
of reaction from him

using her potty
as a step stool
she poops

telling her it’s time
for a diaper change:
“ I did not”

how could I have known
our children, precious
as they are,
would drive us
to such brinks?

in the next room
our children peacefully asleep
– we do nothing

that point
in the evening
where both cats are in place
quietly licking themselves
while I read

she’s waited up…
to have some last words
with me

while brushing my teeth
she tells me again:
“let’s move”

it’s not for any
simple reason
I’ve fallen out
of love
with my life

up in the dark
the toilet

the plumber
kneeling in our tub
– talking to himself

the repairman tells me
any fool can do it

each day being human
brings its choices, chores
and emotions-
hands in the sink water and
the children calling out for more

ten years now
her non-stacking
dessert dishes

I watch the tv
movie love scene my wife
already in bed

the snow
moves me
window to window

in the empty room
I look around to remember why
I’m here

before sleep
laughing to myself
at myself


New Year’s Eve-
the lentil soup

in the middle
of my life
an ulcer

New Year’s …
recycling last year’s

second day
of the New Year:
taxes arrive

quite by surprise
my daughter asks me
if I’d like to be a woman
the gravity in the moment
I took to answer

sick in bed-
my son pelts the window
with snowballs

in the shower
an economy-size bar of soap
lands on my toe

at the mailbox
the emptiness
of another day

it occurs to me
to retreat
from this world-
as if another world
might exist

no longer me
it proves a mystery who it is
I’ve become
walking around this house
with my family there inside

the confines
of my basement study
call me
as if my life were there
to be resolved

evening star…
she sleeps with the lion’s tail
in her little hand

I sort of knew
my coffee cup
was empty-
so much I look in it
just to see

outside the glass door
our old cat has forgotten
it wanted ‘in’

yard work:
some of the old tire water
on my shoes

the butterfly’s path…
my son swings again
and misses

the children run
so carelessly through
the garden-
my dismay
tempered with memory

in the midst
of the children’s raucous play
I notice my son a moment
staring as if aware
of something fleeting past

I watch my children
joyfully little and innocent
of everything ahead-
too much I know
too much to tell


bowed to the ground
the goldenrods
too tall of themselves-
I couldn’t tell her why
the sky is blue

summer dusk-
the neighbors vacuum
the silence