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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Clean, Clean, Clean

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Belonging to the lower class, you’re expected
To cater to the upper class’ lower bodily functions,
Not to engage their minds but to wipe their asses,
Kiss their cunts on demand, suck cocks for tips,
Unless, of course, you’re an artist, in which case,
You’re an aristocrat of the servant class, to quote
That grand maestro among slaves, Jasper Johns.

I used to clean apartments and houses.
Showing up for a new job, I was greeted
By the mistress, "I have the most respect
For new immigrants. You work so hard!”
Down low, you’ll get a disproportionate
Low down on all things funky and nasty,
Nothing unusual, really, just shit and stuff.

I cleaned toilets and fridges, folded panties,
Got on all fours, dipped into the suspicious.
A young woman confided, "I moved to Philly
Because California women were so beautiful."
She was usually home when I came. The spine
Of her soft porn book turned to the wall. They all
Had some smut in the house. This was before
The internet made these sad and surreptitious
Purchases unnecessary. I found a teen-aged
Madonna in a closet, so I knelt and sighed.

A fat one lived alone, but once she said, "Sorry,
The house is so messy today. I had company
Last night," and her face brightened angelically.








[From my 2009 collection, Some Kind of Cheese Orgy. Representing one of my extremely rare trespasses into the mainstream, it also appeared in the November 2009 issue of Harper's. I thought of this poem because of the class issue brought up in the post below.]



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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.