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“Dirt”, de C.K Williams

old-soap

 

My grandmother is washing my mouth out with soap;

half a long century gone

and still she comes at me

with that thick cruel yellow bar.

All because of a word I said,

not even said really, only repeated.

But “Open,” she says, “open up!”

her hand clawing at my head.

I know now her life was hard;

she lost three children as babies,

then her husband died too,

leaving young sons, and no money.

She’d stand me in the sink to pee

because there was never room in the toilet.

But oh, her soap!

Might its bitter burning have been what made me a poet?

The street she lived on was unpaved,

her flat, two cramped rooms and a fetid kitchen

where she stalked and caught me.

Dare I admit that after she did it

I never really loved her again?

She lived to a hundred,

even then. All along it was the sadness, the squalor,

but I never, until now

loved her again.

 

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