Dishwasher (Poem)

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Moonrise, New Year’s Eve. Photo by Paul Martini.


By Irene Hamilton

The electric dishwasher has been inoperable for about a year, now.
The Maytag wonder had finally croaked,
choked by mineral deposits or circuits fried!
Never minding,
I mix a plastic tub of warm chlorinated water,
sprinkled with a capful bleach.
Roll up my sleeves and looking out the window at the unfolding vernal vegetation,
I rinse the dog licked, slimy bowls,
“Only bleach takes off the slime”, I tell my husband,
whose culture has no qualms
about letting dogs lick bowls of whipped egg residue.
Fondling the plates and cups,
I bathe them in soapy water and rinse them,
and rest them in dish drainer to dry,
in their own time.

Growing up in the desert,
there were no excuses
for girls not doing the dishes!

Our dear Navajo mother, frustrated,
would finally burst out sarcastically,
Doo hanii łeets’aa’ t’óó ni’góó ninóhnííł da! Bini’dii łééch’ää’í deełnaad!
“Why don’t you just put the dirty dishes on the floor
and let the dogs lick them clean for you?”
As it was, in our culture, dogs were not even allowed in the house.
So I imagine,
dogs licking dishes were an insult of high degree!

Shibeedí tánágis, tł’óógóó dínísh’îįgo.
I cleanse my precious kitchenware,
bowls that cradled nourishing sustenance and,
I remember Grandmother’s prayers that gave special mention of “beedí,”
precious cooking utensils.
Outside, an easterly breeze tickles pine branches,
the snow has melted, the grass is greening up.

Cleansing one’s dishes must have been a holy ritual.
Tsx’îîłgo łeets’aa’ ha’naa naanaojeeh.
“Herd the dishes across the flowing water, quickly!”
The dishes are done!

–Irene Hamilton grew up near Bluff where she learned to herd sheep across fingers of the San Juan and dishes across the wash basin. She splits her time between Bluff and New Mexico.