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Waiting in the Midwest

17, a virgin, I clean motel rooms,
stripping down
the beds, dumping ashtrays,
cleaning until the bed, desk,
and bible

coalesce in a gritty harmony.
I clean because I'm the boss'
surrounded by women

who actually clean for a living,
others who actually fuck
for a living. For approval, I hope
for rooms

with stains and needles,
desk drawers documenting
who slept with who.

I approach sex backwards,
through its aftermath: the
threadbare comforter
slumping to the floor, the fit

of new sheets
taut as longing
across the bed. Again,

the room is ready,
waiting in the stillness
of a Midwest summer night.

I sit on the bed
and try to imagine a man
but cannot—

a clean room is a clean room,
a space straightening
endings and beginnings

into a line, arranging
ordinary days
into a history.

In the laundry roon's glare,
I leave so much finished love
to spin in the rinse cycle.

Back in the office,
my father (who hates me cleaning)
reviews the key rack—

each number goes to a room;
the rooms with missing keys,
occupied. I tell him 21's done,

he returns the key to its hook.
A man comes into the office.
My father hands him the key

and deadpans, "These are the
good old days."
I see the woman waiting in the car
and loom down at my hands that
made the bed.