New Poem

Rent to Own

His days are spent hunched on bad knees
cleaning durable microfiber, generic,
rent-to-own living room sets
covered with juice stains, pen marks,
blood from a knife wound, smelling
of urine, human or otherwise.
You’d be surprised how many people
pick their noses and leave the evidence
under the arm of an armchair, he tells me.
Roaches, bed bugs, pet hair, dander—
you name it, it’s there, in the fibers,
the polyester pillows and dense cushions.
Steam vapor removes almost anything,
even tar from a chaise owned by a guy
who works at an asphalt company,
working his ass off in ten-hour shifts
to afford his slice of America.
What lies beneath is a mutiny
of forgotten cheese curls, Cracker Jacks,
paper clips, socks, hot dogs, barrettes,
crayons, condoms, needles.
He is a priest keeping secrets
for the sex worker’s love seat,
or the sectional repossessed
the day before Thanksgiving.
They think it’s theirs but know it not,
and treat it as such, without permanence.
Still, it will go on to fit someone else’s
wide bottom or skinny hips
just like new, gently used.
And this work that makes
the back crack and muscles ache,
this salvation in salvage
is a dirty job that someone has to do.


odessa said…
love, love, love this! so raw and powerful i can "see" those dirty living room sets. especially love the last two lines.

btw, just curious, was this inspired by someone you know or is it purely fictitious?
Nic Sebastian said…
eeuw -- that's gross, but in a good way! Enjoyed.
January said…
Thanks Nic!

Odessa, I wrote the poem about my husband, who owns a carpet and upholstery cleaning business. These are his stories and the details were just too good to pass up.
Kay said…
An ode to your working man - I love how you can write about ANYTHING January! And do it so powerfuly and comprehensively; with all that wonderful language you have so readily there at your fingertips.
Anonymous said…
Nice - I really like the detail in this piece.
susan said…
"He is a priest keeping secrets
for the sex worker’s love seat"

The image and sound here are pitch perfect.

Without reading your response, I knew you wrote this with intimate knowledge. My uncle laid carpet for thirty years. He is several inches shorter, with very bad knees and permanently bowed legs. He spent a lifetime on his knees to feed a wife and six kids.

Well done, January.

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