By Steven M. Smith
in memory of my grandparents’ house cleaner
Oh, rubber-gloved heroine
of my grandparents’ household!
Hair and freckles the color of ripe
strawberries. Diminutive, feisty
matriarch of the O-Cedar sponge mop
and upright Hoover vacuum. Stooped
from osteoporosis and a cleaning
career of twisting into ovens
with cans of Easy-Off. So very proud
to flaunt the cleaning rag tossed
biweekly over your shoulder
like a vintage fur stole. You helped
neaten my growth spurts from leaky
diapers to messy delinquency—
and then to cluttered college.
You left years of blazing red lipstick
on my cheeks. You wiped my nose
with your perfumes: Pine-Sol and Windex.
You cleaned my ears with your cover
of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
I learned from you in life it’s best to hum
when I scrub and whistle when I rinse.
And all these decades later you
need to know my soul is tidy.
My heart is still gleaming.
Steven M. Smith’s poems have appeared in The River, Hole in the Head Review, Rattle, Old Red Kimono, Plainsongs, Poetrybay, Ibbetson Street Press, Cabildo Quarterly, Better Than Starbucks, Offcourse, The Writing Disorder, The Worcester Review, and Mudfish. He is the Writing Center director at the State University of New York at Oswego.