Thursday, 4 February 2021



by Mary K O’Melveny

Our house always looks neat enough.
If you don’t stare into cupboards
or study drawers too closely. Our stuff
seems mostly under control, buffered
by simple messages, pristine lines.
Desires to peer too closely are aborted
by earnest visions, surfaces that shine.

Every now and then, something untidy
slips into view despite best plans,
forcing us to mop, sweep what might be
dust mites or cobwebs from doorjambs,
haul away plastic bags of trash
filled with threadbare linens, brown-edged
papers, dead tennis balls, a rash
of too small jackets, too high heels wedged

in closet corners. The birds benefit
from stale biscuits and limp popcorn.
A container of frozen food – whatever it
was now unknown – will not be mourned,
along with moldy bread and avocados.
We haul debris out to the bins.
A period of satisfaction follows
but prophylaxis never begins.

Eventually, our grimy shadows emerge,
widen once more. They lurk under chairs,
deep in cabinets, still a scourge
like monsters hidden beneath the stairs
to the basement.  A pandemic excused
us briefly from deep cleaning fits
as time marched forward and dust renewed,
but our shambolic state persists.

Now we are facing winter storms,
still surrounded by unexamined chaos.
Until we undertake sweeping reforms,
mops and brooms will be superfluous.
We need to unearth all our buried
secrets, those sordid truths we never found
time to tell, the hopes repeatedly miscarried.
Lay them bare on our snow-layered ground.

* * * * *

“Deep Winter Cleaning” was first published in The New Verse News.

Mary K O’Melveny, a retired labor rights lawyer, lives with her wife in Washington DC and Woodstock, NY. Mary, a Pushcart Prize nominee, is author of A Woman of a Certain Age and MERGING STAR HYPOTHESES (Finishing Line Press 2018, 2020) and co-author of the anthology An Apple In Her Hand (Codhill Press 2019). 

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