The Poetry of 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 to 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 by NEW VERSE NEWS

in its December 2020 Blogspot


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