And he that sitteth on [any] thing whereon he sat that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. — Leviticus 15:5
Oh they came, they came from our church,
a surprise. We didn’t know, how could we? We didn’t know how poor
we were until the lovely, sugar-fresh ladies came to our one-bedroom
apartment, on the duskier side of town. Knock, Knock, Knock!
Through the cloudy peephole—
busking upturned brooms and twirling yellow gloves like rubber daisies,
plastic buckets, spongy sponges and bleach, so much white white bleach
to clean our home, because they could, because my mother let them in.
We are blessing you! You work so hard and you are all alone, we are
the Christian Cleaning Brigade! You are a single mother, oh we pity,
let us clean, let us clean, they said—a singing choir to the least of these.
They started dusting and sweeping and sorting—
Oh, where does this go? Is this trash? Is this trash? They chanted.
Opened closets, fingered our clothes and dishes, swish-clank-shut.
Our apartment was theirs. We, the strangers, brown bugs scattering
to edge the dusty baseboards with our shrinking bodies—got out of their way.
Where’s your vacuum dear? Oh it’s so old, my mother had one just like this.
The bright crucifix dangling over creamy clavicles like a pure silver bullet
swaying over the bathtub, a pendulum ticking and tocking the ceramic lip,
while milk-blue powder christened every mushroom-colored ring.
They made it snow.
And their makeup was porcelain perfect, too.
Plum-dark lip liner traced vermillion borders
as they smiled, they never stopped smiling—
until they found it, behind the toilet like a lurch. I forgot I left it there.
One lady came out with my stained underwear, holding it up and away
from her body like a stench. My period bruising the pearly cotton with
a smear of red poppies. My horror, my ooze, my face—
I was the adulteress caught
naked in the streets in front of Jesus. Their unsmiling, fake chilled faces
seeing my midras, my unclean spot before them.
The way they slashed their guillotine eyes at my fresh body—
to have had so much blood in me like a dirty, new sin.