cleaning day

Posted on June 9, 2013 in Poetry

I wrote this piece for this year’s WordCrawl event. I wanted to do something a little bit lighter-hearted, but still speaking from an honest (though slightly uncomfortable) place. Keeping my house organized and staying one step ahead of the clutter and shed cat fur is an ongoing battle for me at the best of times, one I lose more often than i should, and there were points during what I have come to think of as “the dark time” where I was absolutely suffocating under the contents of my home and my lack of energy or motivation to clean or organize. It’s not easy to admit this stuff to people because there is a level of shame involved, but I tried to approach it with humour to dull the knife a bit (mostly for my own sake).

i watched Hoarders once and flashed forward thirty years
slippers shuffling across floor more cat hair than carpet
and a mountain of garbage three feet high
teeming with pests i could no longer even identify
they found the mummified corpse of a cat
crushed under pounds and pounds of trash
on that show and she never even knew it was there

becoming that someday is a nagging worry
as i survey a stack of dishes crusted
with remnants of last week’s dinner
and everything I ate since
banging back and forth between
my place and his
the kitchen table smothered beneath
piles of flyers a foot tall
real tree killing shit that should be in
the recycle bin
except i haven’t emptied it
six months of statements
for a MasterCard i never use
but haven’t shredded yet
because, identity theft
and a letter from Ryerson University
for some guy named Nathan
who hasn’t been at this address in almost nine years
stiletto heels i wore a one night a month ago
and orphaned plates from a potluck last spring
that probably miss their owners

i select carefully the small list
of those i’m willing to expose
to the truth of my mess
to the shed gobs of black fur
dotting every available surface
courtesy of the world’s worst behaved feline
he might as well be a pack of them
for all the peace i get
and the cat piss smell in the cushions
i can’t get rid of even after five buckets
of the strongest cat piss removing solution there is

it never mattered how much my parents bitched
growing up, every towel in the house
could be found soggily stuffed underneath
a growing heap of wrinkled t-shirts and jeans
there was plenty of berating but none of it could change me
i couldn’t get into the rhythm of clean
it has to be oppressive to the point of aggression
before i haul out the vacuum
and the pine sol
knowing all the while i’m impossible to live with

i’d rather write code or poetry than sort through laundry
and i make deals in therapy to do the dishes every day
even stick to it for a few weeks
but sooner or later the clutter crawls on top of me
along with every other bad habit i’m trying to manage
and forces a nine hour frenzy of Hoover and Swiffer and Febreze
all the way to three in the morning
and collapsed into bed
there’s a brief sigh of relief that i know won’t last
but at least for today
the cat is safe from flattening