[Originally published in Dialogue Summer 2015]
What kind of monster spits a wad of gum in a urinal?
Pregnant with identifying evidence.
DNA. Marks from teeth
that will long outlast the flesh.
Because a yellow rubber glove with a hand inside
with the hand of an eternal spirit inside of both
will have to fish that out of there.
And scrub the whole thing down,
porcelain and chrome,
with a green sponge and
the spray-bottle mist of
chemicals known to cause central nervous system defects
if used without proper ventilation.
My mom wasn't embarrassed by the thought of me,
sixteen, walking around in no-name shoes,
or denim with a counterfeit stitch-pattern
across the back pockets,
or working crappy jobs.
I located the origin, formerly a mystery to me,
of money. I mowed lawns and pulled weeds.
I harvested sweet corn and onions and radishes.
I washed dishes and operated a deli slicer.
I was a sad narcissus in a hairnet
contemplating my reflection
in a razor-sharp disk of stainless steel
between slices of black forrest ham.
And I scrubbed countless elementary school toilets.
Chris, the head janitor, had some disabilities.
But he wasn't blind
to student mockery or teacher patronage or my half-assed work.
He taught me something.
He wasn't literally Jesus,
but he was meek and lowly
and he descended below a few things,
with a vacuum and a brown rag
and a set of keys on a retractable chain.
To make people feel safe and loved
by emptying the trash cans
and stocking the bathroom dispensers
--gritty pink powdered hand soap;
coarse brown paper towels--
and by fishing wads of gum out of urinals.