Fighting the Urge to Clean: poem by Lucia Cherciu

Fighting the Urge to Clean

Scrub the floor, walls, bathroom tiles.
Clean the windows with rumpled newspapers
the way my mother did,
she on the inside and I on the balcony outside—
we scrubbed the windows with vinegar and the glass
squeaked. We saw our faces, my mom commandeering
driving the house by sheer will.
I would have sat down with a book but her whirlpool
seized the house, a torrent of will sharp like steel.

Bleach the grout, wipe the backsplash.
Soap the fruit tray and the vegetable tray
in the fridge and the dirt syrup trapped on the shelves.
Throw out every useless gadget,
every antiquated cord from some electronics
we discarded a decade ago.

Scour until my fingers prune inside the gloves
and the smell of latex sinks in, too much
for pores, too much for breathing.
Launder and fold until the house is spinning,
the closet filled with neat piles of color coordinated
tops and cardigans, reds and whites and purples.

Clean till my fingers bleed, cuticles
shredded, curled back the way my mother
washed the clothes by hand, rough sheets
she rubbed with home-made soap
she had boiled in a cauldron in summer.
And then she put all the clothes on the line
outside. The skin on her hands swollen
and thinned at the same time.

Or I could fight the urge to clean,
make a fresh cup of tea—and burn that draft.


Lucia Cherciu is the author of five books of poetry, including Train Ride to Bucharest (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017), which was the winner of the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize. Her work was nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net. Her web page is

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s