Washing Hands

Scott McCloskey

They say that all poems are
political; all poems are
an expression of freedom
against oppression are
innately radical.  Their
mere “existence is
resistance.”

But not this one.

This one is just about me
washing my hands
and how sometimes I lose
count, so I need to start
over to ensure that
I’ve done it for the proper
length of time.

Hands lathered up, I stare
out the kitchen window
at the neighbor’s house,
at my neighbor who, although
it’s the middle of December,
and sure, it is unseasonably
warm, looks to be planting fake
flowers in the sills outside
of her windows.

This is the same neighbor
who was surprised when her
racist lawn ornaments were
stolen this past summer
when yet more videos
of atrocities and injustices
were going viral,

which, of course, makes me
scrub more vigorously, thinking
of the UPS package that came,
the actual reason that I’m standing
here in the kitchen —
Was that one thousand seventeen
or eighteen? —

So, I apply more soap from the
hands free dispenser, and
watch, transfixed, as she carefully,
artistically even, places various
colors and kinds together, creating,
to her mind at least, a pleasing
arrangement, taking more care
and effort to arrange these fake
flowers than she has ever
afforded her neighbors.

And I just wanted to wash my
hands, wanted to not (potentially)
infect my wife or myself, wanted
to simply go about my business,
maybe read a little, grade an essay
or two,

but I keep thinking
about the sad fact that
cultivation does take
time and effort and
persistence, and,
for some, it really
is easier to arrange
plastic flowers

than to plant
and nurture
live ones.

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