She finishes the sweeping in front of the house
and moves on to the side. There the hose is in the way,
wound and wound in uneasy arcs on the cement path,
from just before when her husband–tired now and in to rest–
had been using it in the way of the suburbs,
powering into the street the smaller debris—cigarette ash,
blades of grass from a final cutting,
and Polly Noses from the old maple which leans now,
so many years later, out over the path.
When dry they tend to stick to the walk,
even clean as she works to keep it,
though it shouldn’t much matter moving day.
In fact, I note to her, from my own driveway
next door where I’m trying not to watch too close,
but afraid I’ll never see this scene again:
Millie, it’s pretty damn clean.
Alan, I know. It’s just . . . and her voice trails off.
Last thing I mean is to discourage her
and she goes to the back, now dragging her broom,
leans against the gate, sighs, as she looks at the place
her kids and neighbor-kids and grandkids played.
There had been a swing set, screams of joy
and sometimes pain, a plastic pool, grass
now covered over in concrete, less to maintain,
and says, only partly to me, turning to go,
I guess it’s clean enough. For now.
by Alan Walowitz
Editor’s Note: This poem’s narrative seems simple on the surface, but hiding beneath the characters’ actions lies an emotional wallop emphasized by the closing line. Scattered rhymes and random iambic meter soothes the reader even as the story grows more emotional.