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In Praise of the Empty Sink

Something is wrong if my lover leaves a sink full of dirty dishes

undone. My lover is the type that can’t relax until the garbage disposal’s  

clotted throat sings a pure note. Back when we had separate apartments,

the first thing he would notice when he came over were the crusted plates  

and blotted spoons spilling over the stained-steel lip of my sink

to mingle with the crumbs littering the splotched countertops.  

He had to sit on his hands the rest of the night so they would not detach

from his wrists and start tidying my tiny kitchen. Then we moved in together,  

and still it is not uncommon for me to wake from a movie I fell asleep watching

to find him at his post – even if it’s 3am. No matter how I plead with him  

to just let the pots soak until morning, he never does. As a kid, my father

all but forced the chore upon me. Would stand me in front of the sink  

stacked with dirtied ceramic for hours if that’s what it took to clear them all.  

And the worst part – dipping my hand beneath the water’s murky depths  

to pull the plug from the drain, bits of food prodding my bare fingers

with their slimy fish mouths. When Dad wasn’t looking, I’d pack the dishwasher  

well past its maximum capacity. When he caught me (and he always caught me)

his hissed, “lazy!” was a wound-up wet rag to my pride, beating it soggy.  

I watch my lover soap the frying pan by hand like he’s baptizing a baby 

and I am reminded of my father’s lesson. And I wonder how two people  

as diligent in their domestic duties as my parents let the years pile up

between them without noticing – a swaying tower of unresolved conflict  

balanced atop a single serrated edge. Luckily it’s not in my lover’s nature

to let things sit, leave things unfinished. And I would rather gargle dishwater  

than go to bed angry. I hope we never get lazy with this love.

Clear the clutter as it comes. Never give the grime a chance to build.  

May we always find the courage to look our filth in the eye. May we sleep at night

with the kind of peace of mind between us that is and only can be described  

as an empty sink.


Madison (she/her) smiling, wearing a grey turtleneck sweater and purple wide brim hat, stands in front of the snow-covered Black Canyon of the Gunnison, her arms on either side of her rest on a wooden fence.

Madison Gill (she/her) is a poet from Montrose, Colorado. She received her BA in English from Colorado State University-Pueblo. She was the 2021 winner of the Cantor Prize awarded by the Telluride Arts Institute Talking Gourds Poetry Program. Author of the forthcoming chapbook Casualties of Honey (Middle Creek Publishing), her poetry has been widely published both online and in print, locally, nationally and even internationally. Her work appears in Twenty Bellows, Beyond the Veil Press, Sledgehammer Lit, Tiny Spoon, and From Whispers to Roars among others. Madison lives with her fiance and their cat in a tiny home at the foot of the San Juan Mountains. Find her on instagram @sweetmint_poet