After the Affair, We Clean House

by Kelli Russell Agodon

There are seven of us. My job
is windows. We burn
candles in the living room.
Her porch is peeling paint.
I’m listening to an audiobook
suggesting heaven. She is searching
for a broom. I wash her bedroom
windows; the closet is only dresses
and skirts. There is an empty
bottle of wine on the nightstand.
There are six of us here; someone
needed to leave. I wipe off the drips
of wine on the floor. I make her
bed, light a candle. I maintain
that the human mystery is incredibly
demeaned . . . I bring the wine bottle
to the kitchen. I am listening
to a book about God. My friend
touches my shoulder, asks me
how much I cry. Someone has
blown out the candles in the living
room. Humans are built to adapt.
There are four of us still
here cleaning, others have left
silently. My job is to wash the windows.
She holds my hand. Someone
returns . . . I must be able to give up
what I am in order to become what I will
be. I walk into her son’s bedroom;
his glasses are on the nightstand.
I make his bed and place a small
stuffed elephant on the center
of his pillow. I find three quarters
and an unopened bag of M&Ms
in my purse and place them
by his glasses. Some say, in God
a deep dazzling darkness
. . . an inky darkness that was
also full brimming with light.
I wash his bedroom windows.
There’s a small spiderweb
in the corner, I leave it be.

KELLI RUSSELL AGODON is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press where she works as an editor and book cover designer. Her most recent book, Hourglass Museum, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards and shortlisted for the Julie Suk Poetry Prize. Her second book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room was the winner of the Foreword Indies Book of the Year for poetry and was also a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards. She also coauthored The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, with poet Martha Silano. She lives in Washington State. She is an avid paddleboarder who lives in a sleepy seaside town in the Pacific Northwest. Her favorite color is plaid.

Photo: “Cleaning” by richardoyork