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Also by Kevin Stein:
Juliet Prowse and the Cast of Can-Can Dance for Nikita Krushchev, Hollywood, 1959 | Love Poem Penciled above April's Sad Math | Politics of Mop and Sponge

Politics of Mop and Sponge

Because it sickens her, she scrubs
  the toilet last—necessity’s habit
    as apt as those uniform hose
      she buys in Phar-Mor dozens,

parking lot crammed with more Chevies
  than cars in all of Sarajevo,
    where her husband and father poof
      disappeared, sniper’s black magic havoc

among pocked walls grinning
  gap-toothed like the devil who took
    them from her. That she died too,
      waters crossed only to find Peoria,

belies the afterlife: cleaning the Sleep King
  and its pink honeymoon rooms,
    velour haunt of Hunt truckers
      and the twins from Big Al’s strip joint

who favor the pun Suite 69.
  There, each noon the manager kindly
    inquired how she liked her job
      and just what could she do

about his tented crotch—
  implying hard connections—
    so she agreed to a hand-job, though
      wouldn’t remove the yellow rubber glove

she’d cleaned the grubby tub with
  and Tilex raised blisters his wife wanted
    answers for, which was the weeping end
      of that. She’s Black Madonna

of Spic and Span, around whom bloom
  ashtray votives, pink lipstick hickeys,
    green hockers wreathed about the trash
      no one can hit amidst the unearthly

din of the wake-up call, amidst
  the rose a lover opens to say
    yes, yes upon the bedspread she’ll
      later unrumple to discover

a sodden surprise. Last New Year’s
  she found black bra and garters,
    three liters of Cold Duck still chilled
      in sink, razor blade and coke mirror

bitter with white powder. It’s
  a wash this Valentine’s Day, lone
    plastic crocus and basketball
      on color TV she swivels to watch

while mopping the bath, where last
  she bends to scrub the toilet, where
    last her husband’s face stares back
      among the E.-coli and the crap

she flushes down, where last she gently
  loops a slip around the seat
    to signal it’s safe—the Lysolled throne
      now Sanitized for Your Protection.

Printed in the Spring/Summer 2000 issue of CLR

Kevin Stein

Kevin Stein is the author of five books of poetry and criticism, most recently Private Poets, Worldly Acts (Ohio University Press, 1999), essays on poetry and history. The poems printed here will appear in his forthcoming collection, Chance Ransom, to be published by University of Illinois Press in Fall 2000. He teaches at Bradley University.

You can find Kevin Stein on the web at:
—  Bradley University
—  Bruised Paradise
—  An Illinois Portfolio
—  Chance Ransom
—  Private Poets, Worldly Acts
—  Amazon (Please note that this page will list works by multiple authors named Kevin Stein)
—  Barnes & Noble (Please note that this page will list works by multiple authors named Kevin Stein)


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