Steam Cleaner

The man’s missed his calling. I don’t care
what name he’s made for himself in what
work he does to bring home a paycheck
or how many people pay to hear him speak.
Don’t tell me how much he’s been published
or how many thousands he has helped out.
Forget new ways and words he’s created.
It won’t matter how much bad he’s prevented.
He was born for one thing: to clean carpet.

Professional services charge the big bucks
for the finest equipment and fancy uniforms
and TV commercials and liability insurance
and obscene profits for an owner never seen.
Your carpet means nothing to them but dirt
they can bill you for. Try asking how often
they replace the carpets in their own homes.

Cigarette ash. Wine stains. Mud ground in
like a pestle in its mortar. Spores and dust.
Pet hair. Dead skin. Coffee spills. Sweat
and the traces of lovemaking on the floor.
A canvas where the traffic of normal life
has painted shadows of dancing and tears.
He bathes it in steam like a breath of a god
giving mouth to mouth to one who’d drowned.

I dreamed a dream in which he had a part
to play. He appeared as Sisyphus rejected
from his rightful place, pushed aside and left,
condemned for failing to conform to the lies
told of him, abandoned to an eternal fate
of steam cleaning one long stretch of carpet
over and over, end to end and back again.
Then I had to pause, curious. He would stop
each time he turned around to clean again.
Was he weary? Did he think to repent?
I watched him clean and stop, clean and stop,
clean and stop twenty million times and more,
before I saw his eyes, then knew. He waited
as each sinner would walk down his dark hall
on each one’s endless journey alone into hell,
then he would steam clean every footprint
and keep the blackest marks in his reserve
as the pure vapors of souls rose to heaven
as his dreams wrapped him in a perfect art.

Silly perhaps. Nothing past a boring chore
needing to be done more often than is done
or when vacating the premises to the next
who’ll reuse the same carpet clean or not.
It’s not supposed to matter to care so much
for something so mundane, so interminable.

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