When I was young, I always loved the stories where the characters may not have had much, but their house was sparkling clean, their clothes neatly mended, and their garden tilled, weeded, and supported as needed. Sadly, admiration doesn’t always translate to imitation. Cleaning is not my thing. When my children were young and saw me pull out the vacuum cleaner they immediately asked, “Who’s coming over?” This was a pretty accurate assessment of the situation.
I love having a clean home, but I’m not much on maintenance cleaning–it just isn’t a priority. It gets downright dirty around here sometimes. I feel bad about it. But not quite bad enough to rectify it or to put down my book (or my writer’s notebook, or my glass of wine…). And spring cleaning? Do people really still do that? I mean that intensive wall-washing, curtain-washing, cabinet-scrubbing crazed top-to-bottom house cleaning?
Ellen Taylor, a Maine poet, tackles this topic in her poem, Spring Cleaning ,and though I may not be a cleaning goddess, Taylor’s poem resonates. There is something deeply satisfying about the click and clack of grit whirling down the vacuum cleaner hose. And I’ll let you in on a little secret– cleaning is especially satisfying when there’s a good supply of dust bunnies, dirt and debris to disappear and you can make visible progress!
By Ellen M. Taylor
Why are there no poems of the joy of vacuum cleaning after a long
winter? Of the pleasure of pulling the couch back, sucking up cobwebs, dead
flies, candy cane wrappers, cookie crumbs? The sun rises earlier now, flooding
the room with daffodil light, enough to see long unseen clumps of dog hair, (Read the rest by clicking on the title.)
Soon after enjoying this poem, I read April Pulley Sayre’s Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust, to my class. Pulley poetically explores the origins of dust–“Dust can be bits of unexpected things-“– and its timelessness –“Old dust stays around.”
This tickled my imagination and combined with Taylor’s poem to inspire me to rethink dust and dusting and to write this poem.
The dust on my floors
has been stirred
by the feet of dinosaurs,
the leaping of gazelles and
the sweet shuffle of footie pj’s
in the early morning
on chilly winter days.
When I sweep the floor
and make the dust fly,
I stir up a tornado
of particles and pollens,
and pharaohs dance with dodos
in a temporary tango.
Scales from a butterfly’s wing,
a stray piece
from a comet’s streaking tail,
or fragments of skin-kissed skin
from my once-upon-a-time-toddlers
accumulate atop the old wooden table,
where once my grandparents dined,
and coat the lightbulbs
in the hallway chandelier.
With duster in hand,
I wipe away the remnants,
that our history
is writ through dust,
as is that of the universe.
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
Molly Hogan (c) 2016
If you’re interested in reading more poetry, Laurie Purdie Salas is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.