She lets me know, she wants the toilets done every day.
I’m here twice a week, so I drop a blue tab in the tank
every two weeks to keep the white white despite the shit,
the piss, the menstrual blood, and, I suppose, the semen
he deposits in the bowl when, as she tells me, pissed off,
at him, or the world, she tells him she’s not in the mood,
or having her period for a change, or fighting a headache.
I do the tiles with a generic, less expensive than Windex,
use a nonabrasive powder for tub and basin, with a Q-Tip
around the drain and the faucet taps. A metal polish for
the frame of the mirror that she bought, she’s told me half
a dozen times, on her honeymoon in Venice. She gained
five pounds, she likes to say, thought she was pregnant,
but on the last night blood leaked through her lace panties.
The floor gets mopped. I used to do it on my knees. Grout
got scrubbed with a coarse-bristled brush. I was younger,
then, my knees in better shape. She thinks I still do it that
way, but a mop’s good enough, so I let her think what she
likes. I like polishing the furniture, a beeswax compound
that brings up the light through the lacquer-glowing piano
and the French-style dressing table she tells me is Empire.
Sometimes, I see her pour scent from a cheap 8 oz. bottle
I’ve seen at Dollar General into frosted crystal, the shape
of a dryad, she once said. The crystal’s by Lalique, but the
scent is a knock-off of Opium called Lady of the Casbah.
I used to dab a little on my wrist from time to time and
have fun playing make believe, but mostly I’m too tired.
She warns me to handle the objets d’art with extra care.
For the windows, I come an extra day, once a month, and,
then, she pays me for the whole month previous counting
out the bills on the piano top and making me count them
again, “So we have no misunderstandings,” as she says.
I budget because I have to, setting aside enough for rent,
$375 a month, as well as gas and electric. Not, of course,
that she’s my only client. I’ve three steadies and pickups.
Lunch at her house is whatever she’s left in the fridge
for me, usually bologna for a sandwich, or I make bacon
and eggs, and have a tomato I cut into wedges, alongside,
or I heat soup in the microwave and toast a few slices
of sourdough bread she keeps in the freezer to stay fresh.
She tells me to help myself to the pâté, and I have, but
it’s too rich if I want to be done before she gets back.
About 2 o’clock, I take a break, drink a Sprite or a cup
of decaf. At 4, I’m done, usually. I wash up and change
back into my street clothes and walk to the bus stop at
Diversey and Broadway. It’s a two-transfer ride home,
my feet tired, my head pretty empty, so I sit on the vinyl
shiny seats speculating about the people sitting across
the aisle, or standing, hoping someone nearby gets up.
I think a lot about food, and the wine she sometimes
puts out for dinner, Chateau-this-or-that, which I’ve
never tasted. If she hasn’t given me the remainder of
a pork shoulder, or what’s left of a block of cheddar
or gouda from the night before, I get off at Merl’s Mart
a couple of blocks before my stop to buy a quart of beer
and a frozen dinner, willing my workday to be over.
Stuart Jay Silverman, Brooklyn born and bred, has, since retiring from college and university teaching, divided his domestic life between Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Chicago, Illinois. Over six hundred of his poems appear in over one hundred magazines and anthologies. He has two books of poetry in print: Report From The Sea Of Moisture and The Complete Lost Poems: A Selection. He writes both free and formal poetry and hopes that his poems will create what he calls a subsistent reality, a plausible experience forged between the writer and reader.