“Broom” © Stacy Esch


A Broom Shouldn’t Mean

Sit by my side, come as close as the air
Share in a memory of gray
And wonder in my words
And dream about the pictures that I paint
Of changes

~Phil Ochs

A broom shouldn’t mean, but be.
This much I know about literal, beat-up brooms, and life,
And their so-called meaning.
BUT a broom that has had a life,
A broom that’s a friend,
A comrade, a warrior,
Means something…
If not to Hollywood, or MOMA,
Netflix, or the Punditry-at-Large,
Then just to me.
You can disagree,
Just hear me out.

We have seen things,
This broken broom and I.
We have traveled, we have sailed.
High and low against the windy tides
Of leaves across the deck boards
Against many a remote crevasse
Sheltering the crisp, crackling hordes
Of castaway greens, twigs, stems, and prickly cones,
Surfacing only when we’d secured our treasure
(some might say debris, but what do they know,
What do they know?) and offered it in fealty
To the bright wisdom of Gnomestead,
Whose sunny edges and ageless breezes
Scatter it for the bees and butterflies, birds and squirrels,
Welcome all colors to mix, feeder and food as one
In the Great All-Seeing Eye.

Your less great, only partially-seeing eyes,
My dear producer, story runner, curator, editor, critic,
Can scoff at this (seriously, obviously) worthless pitch,
This sentimental poem about a broom.
Click away with your downward thumb.
But see with your limited vision
How this middle finger rises (arthritically, so what?)
Toward you, or in your general direction, as my answer.
This broom and I have stood by doorways with hinges
So rusty and creaking and with windows so ghosted and old
And managed still to see what you cannot.
We could show it to you, but fuck you.
We sweep for a greater good by far.
We sweep for the sake of serenity, for eternity.
We sweep for the gods of the realm,
For the piercing rays, rippled shadows, for moss in the cracks
and even for the plentiful green mold .
We care not for the people’s scorn, for time, or for rust.
We care sometimes for heat-borne illness, infected mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.
But for the most part we sweep for the pleasure of sweeping
Be it into the grass, the bush, the void, or wherever.

When this broom dies (all the way)
I’ll bury it (sort of, maybe just place it unobtrusively)
In a corner of the yard
Where it can see the eternal sunrise,
And season after season of relentless buds, seeds, and leaves
Dropping endlessly by the hour all through June and July
from the sycamore maple because of too much rain
Because of climate change
That some younger broom will handle.
Isn’t that always the way, my friend,
Leaving our mess for future generations
To suffer? I know, you disapprove of sarcasm
And prefer the more straight ahead approach.

So now gather we once more our most forward forces,
Brush aside impediments for the excuses they be,
And tape up the wounds that have tried to break us
In that same place, again and again,
Have tried to make of us broken things.
We are not broken, but mended.
A little duct tape, a round of antibiotics and ibuprofen
And we’re back to work, ready to sweep another day. Together.
When we lose the war (as everyone loses this war at some point)
We can still celebrate our many victorious battles upon the field of disintegration!

Perhaps you would rather, dear producer, dear reader of the bottom line,
That I deposit this “thing” in the garbage bin and shut the fuck up.
But I can’t and I won’t.
This is poetry (I mean, I think it is, but I’m not 100% sure)
But whatever it is, it’s here whether you like it or not.
Put that in your next streaming mini-series, ok?
OK, then.

The rest is silence (or at least quieter than normal).


Stacy Esch teaches writing, literature, and pop culture at West Chester University of Pennsylvania where she’s trying to be a good academic who truly believes in the arts and humanities. She has recently published poems, photos and artwork in several small press venues, including wordriver, Turkshead Review, and Oddball Magazine and has collaborated on a chapbook of poems and artwork for Spruce Alley Press. Not drawing is not an option. She currently lives and works in beautiful West Chester, Pennsylvania, surrounded by people, pets, and stuff that is endlessly inspiring.