Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
wash me, make me whiter than snow.
A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Psalm 51: 4, 9, 12
Dirty dishes stacked so high, porcelain towers on my right and left. I take the sponge in hand, wring out the water, squeeze on soap, and crank the faucet hot. Steam rises as the stream heats, steady I plunge plates and cups into the bubbles swirled below. Swish, wash, rinse, repeat; the stack grows smaller as I go, plates now neat and nestled drying silent in the rack. My hands turn pink and bright in sink's hot bath; my fingers pruned and white by end of night. Long ago I ate alone: the solitary rinse of single spoon and knife and fork. These days I’m elbow deep in pans, scrubbing steel pots ringed thick with soup, browned casseroles of dinners passed with family, friends all those who gather for my meals. Cynics see the stubborn cycle of the grimy, gooey junk caked hard on dishes left to sit too long (pardon my love of lingering one last glass) as dirty proof of life’s depressing rut: the endless drag of meals and mouths to feed, a plate’s only escape the break that sends it swiftly to the bin. But I delight in dishes, love the dirty and the clean: how they slide in slippery hands before I scrub in circles swift, how they flash with water’s drip each time I lift them up to rise, inspecting both sides slick and sheen, then dry them satisfied. For dishes prove that someone shared the meal, that there was food to pass, safe time to spare. Companions, plenty and a pause are no small good in world of loneliness, want, rush and fear. And if I'd none to wash, that would mean no one took the cup. What a tidy, terrible mistake that empty would have been.