Cleaning House Nikki Moustaki Poetry

local_library Cleaning House

by Nikki Moustaki

Published in Issue No. 109 ~ June, 2006

There’s something wicked that empowers poets cleaning their houses

Poetry loves a fresh floor, a spotless toilet, even under the rim.

There are a thousand ways to get grout white again.

A thousand ways to shine tile, to polish a sink new.

Poetry lives between the bristles of a used toothbrush,

Metaphors choke when the poet touches the feather duster:

poetry loves grime. It’s tired of living like an old washcloth,

wiping away staleness like lime from a spigot.

The garbage must be dumped, the dog washed, books alphabetized.

Help me, whatever it is that makes poems.

Whatever divine synapse clicks invisibly like a dust mote

in the darkness, gathering word upon word,

balling phrases under the bed where only the broom’s

eyelashes touch; help me whatever thing drives the scouring pad,

the dish cloth, the mop, each hand latex-gloved, dumb and callous,

the pen dormant in its shell, but clean. Sloth saves poets

the way the sea saves painters: each wave decorating a new landscape

to love, every handful of sand, original, capricious.

I know each coffee stain on the sofa is a stanza waiting to set in,

that glass-ring on the nightstand an unending orb waiting for its tenor.

I’ll just tidy up a little while poetry dies inside my sponge.

I live here among the dog hair, the mildew, the rust.

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Nikki Moustaki graduated from Florida International University with a BA in English Literature, earned an MA in Creative Writing from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University. She was awarded several W.B. Yeats Society of New York Prizes for poetry, was a Nation Discovery finalist, a nominee for a Pushcart Prize in 1999 and 2000, and received a 2001 NEA Grant in poetry.