The Carpet Sweeper

Carol Rumens

To K. Lumley

Mother, last week I met
that old Ewbank we had
when I was three or four,
standing outside a junk-shop
in Bridge Street. I was sure
it was the one because
it knew me straight away.
At first we were both glad.
We looked each other over.
I think it felt the sharp
impulse of my pity;
it made no comment, however,
and I was too polite
to mention its homeless state.
Mother, the wooden case
was burnished still, and stout.
Its wheels were scooter-sized,
and, just as in the old days,
slyly it urged my feet
aboard to jiggle a ride.
I drew myself up a little
(I’d borrowed your scolding face)
and it apologised.
Ashamed, I turned to other
subjects, praised its lion
trademark, proud though worn;
spoke of the rubber mouldings
that had saved the shins of our chairs
when savagery and housework
boiled in your heart. Mother,
I’m sure it spoke your name.
The sighs of all women
whose days are shaped by rooms
played over it like shadows.
What could I do or say?
I turned, it became small
on the dusty pavement, trying
perhaps to recall the smell
of our floors, the cosy tying
of loose ends, scattered wishes
in its spinning brushes ...