the anatomy of cleanliness

Polished marble, cracked
granite. Wooden finish,
mirror, ornate tap,
a golden swan’s song
trembles through
moving water.

Sinks dot the landscape of an antique
store in a small American town.
Tucked against Greek columns, spiraling
staircases, carved
chairs, tapestries,
Western canons,
their quiet memories frame the contours
of histories collected from the oceans
between people.

Standing at a sink, I imagine water
rushing through the hands of kings,
noblewomen, the bold and thickly veined arms
of rich warriors breathing
as the blood flows away.

I imagine the faint vain looks that follow
the run against imperfection, a solitary
hair pushes itself back in an absent
reflection.
A soft smile and warm anger rifles through glass
bottles searching for something,
everything, nothing.

I imagine the chamber-maid bent over,
her torn dress wet against the smooth
stone, a thickly veined hand like salt
in her mouth and her trust
bleeding into polished marble and
being washed away.

I imagine the light that tumbles
through windows, babies being lovingly
washed under the trembling
swan’s song and sailor’s hands.

My hands crater into the edges of
stories washed away,
each missing mirror speaking
silently of men who watched themselves
the way the world did, who cared too much
and too little, of how vanity has a face
but no name,
of pain remembered each day as sharply
as a pang of hunger
framed in silver and set
on polished stone.

Polished marble, cracked
granite, wooden finished,
silver, tremble, light, water.

Neither reflection nor liquid stand
present, but cannot be imagined to be
absent.
In a small American town, I stand
amongst Greek columns, spiraling
staircases, carved
chairs and tapestries,

and glance at the price tags on
memories lost to water.

 

 

Notes:

  • The image is a close up of the Ratto di Prosperina, a sculpture completed in 1622 by Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese.
  • A part of its description in this blog, namely “These details, like the expression of fear on Proserpina’s face or the sense of overwhelming force created by the muscular form of Pluto, inform the viewer and tell an entire story with a single moment in time.” inspired the snapshot nature of description in this poem.
  • The setting of the poem is an antique store called Irreplaceable Artifacts in Middletown, Connecticut in the United States.

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