The Agreement {poem}

You like doing laundry
separating darks and lights
reds and blues
delicate and heavy duty loads

We both do dishes
at least two sinkfuls per day
but I thrill a little
every time I find the coffee pot
clean and ready for tomorrow's brew

Trash and recycling
are mine -- that's ok
Per the landlord's request,
a bin for cans and bottles
to be traded for so many nickels
break down cardboard boxes
crumple milk cartons

Sweeping is my meditation
the kitchen floor a repository
of where we've been
and what season we're in

You with a toothbrush
and the kind of attention to detail
that would play well on a resume

Me behind the stove, under the bed
shrieking at the magnitude
of hair and dust and debris

We never sat down
to map this out, you know
Never said, these are your duties
and those are mine

In my first marriage, he would have
shoveled, dug out the car
cleared the walk
and done the neighbor's, too
He would have changed the high-up
light bulb I couldn't reach
without a step-ladder
and I would have tidied and puttered
and arranged the tchotchkes

I would not have assembled
furniture or learned to disable
the chirping smoke detectors

This morning, a layer of ice
over the unplowed driveway
You made your breakfast
and I made mine
We both drank coffee
and the agreement between us
to be here together
shone like the promise of spring

But she never scraped our car,
my son observed
It doesn't matter, I replied
It's a kindness
She's a single parent
We don't do things for other people
because of what they've done for us
He nodded

I stripped off my wet gloves and coat
having burned the scorecard
long before we signed
our names
to each other