Song For Picking Up
Every time that something falls
someone is consigned to pick it up.
Every time it drops and rolls into a crack,
blows out the window of the car
or down onto the dirty restaurant floor
— a plastic bag, a paper clip, a cube of cheese
from the buffet —
there somebody goes, down upon
their hands and knees.
What age are you when you learn that?
After Dante finished the Inferno, someone
cleaned up all the ink and crumpled paper.
After the surgeons are done with the operating room,
someone makes it spic-and-span again.
After World War I, the Super Bowl,
a night at the ballet;
after the marching feet of all humanity
come the brooms and mops, the garbagemen
and moms, the janitors.
One day you notice them.
After that, then, no more easy litter. No more towels
on the hotel bathroom floor. You bend over
for even tiny bits of paper,
or, bitterly, you look back at your life — like Cain
upon the body of his brother.
The toilet clogs, and a man takes up the plunger and the snake
and tackles it.
He moves the plunger up and down, as if he was
plunging his woman, or himself.
He feeds the snake into the hole and rotates it.
Elbow grease, foul air, the diagnostic phrase rubber gasket disintegration.
He likes this job
because no one else would want it,
because a man feels comfortable with shit.
He goes at it in the same way
that he does his life,
unable to tell
exactly what is going on down there
in the interior,
banging his head
against the outside, forcefully,
yet happy with the work, knowing that in some sense
it suits him perfectly —
his willingness to sweat, his stubbornness, his freedom
from the need to understand.
Good man. Good man. Good man.