142. Housekeeping

For comfort,
She would stroke
The Frigidaire.
Not all women
Had one. Hardly
None.

Patty sponged its
Side. Its stolid
Bigness and its
Whiteness drew her eye.
Her mind lately
Sought its tranquil
Blank: passing
By it in her
Kitchen, she would
Stare.
What might mar its
Surface–Matt’s fresh
Fingerprints or
Dribbles of fresh jam–
Insufferable. She wiped it
At once.

Patty knew she
Ought not feel this way,
Same too toward her
Couch, her drapes,
And her lovely
Low carved coffeetable.
Preacher, he had
Warned of earthly things.
They could weigh you
Down from Heaven’s Gate.
She knew Jesus loved
A different whiteness: lilies
That don’t spin.
Yet….
Feel how solid–
She thumped its smooth
Door–feel how
Touchable–how
There, and permanent–
You could count on
This as the world
Fell, as church made
Promises. Bud
Doled out less
Allowance every
Week, bank job
Sailed away….

“Christ! This place
Is a sty!”
Bud’s voice from
The livingroom: he’s
Back. “Patty!
Ever vacuum?
Once in a blue
Moon?” Patty
Wavered. She could
Say: “Yes, I
Do it, twice a day.” But
Inexplicably,
As if stricken by some
Witch’s curse, no
Words came.
Meanwhile Bud found
Threads down on the carpet–
Balls of fuzz.
Once he’d found
A cat hair, so he
Claimed–although they
Had no cat. Now
Patty’s breath came
Faster, her ear cocked.
She thought: guess I
Need a new machine. One that
Sucks much harder.
Used to, Bud would
Not inspect so
Close. His shout: “Well,
Fancy that!
Patty! Guess what!
On the coffeetable–wrote
My name! That
Beargrease you use,
Dirt sticks on
Inch-thick. Now come
See!”

Patty did not
Want to.
“Come see!”
Patty came out
Guiltily, in haste,
So he wouldn’t
Breach the kitchen door.
Black spots on
The burners of
The stove! Lint high
On the shelf,
Just where he could
Spy, and she could
Not–“Patty,
Lucky thing I’m
Home! House falls apart!
Look–this button
Loose here on my
Shirt!” He yanked it
Off to show.
“What if someone
Saw! Lord, Patty,
What if I had
Run the bank this way!”

“I’m so sorry.”
Patty smoothed her
Skirt. She sat down
Next to him and
Got her sewing box.
Keep him from
The kitchen at all
Cost.

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