the school cleaner

he armed himself
on a daily basis
with the tools required
by his trade

a broom of course
and a mop and bucket

solvent and a three inch paintbrush

a duster
an eraser
and assorted cloths

a chisel
he had sometimes found useful

and a hammer

some weights

protective clothing

dark glasses
heavy boots
rubber gloves

a helmet
well you never could tell


enough to make a start
to the working evening


he found that every room
had a different

the beginners rooms
were just a mess

loose letters
naïve words


half formed couplets

strewn and abandoned
on the floor
in corners
under the desks

simple enough though
to sweep them up
into a seething mess
then scoop them
into recycling

the more advanced rooms
spelled trouble

ha ha
not a pun

some of those phrases
could be curly
almost fully complete
as meaningful stanzas
before the sense of them
had flown
leaving despair and resentment
trailing in black lines
of entrapment

he might have to stop these
in their tracks

possibly whack down
leading lines with the hammer

glove up

handle carefully
words can sometimes
do a lot of harm

and the ‘S’ room
was a shocker

all those sibilants
curling round everything
seeming alive

and slippery

he would show no mercy there

almost as disturbing
as having to contain
the over-friendly ‘T’s next door

an unpleasant student
would scribble
or carve
on the furniture

some small doggerel
but always
with a nasty bite

out with the solvent
or the stripper

hammer and chisel
if it was extreme

the teachers
were perhaps the worst

the rubbish they left
on blackboards

on whiteboards

the gifted ones left their nonsense
in the air

left for him
to clean up after them

left for him
to leave things gleaming
by mis-formed rhyme
an absence of free-verse

no pentameters
no sonnets

and they paid him

not enough to compensate
for the nightmares
of letters and words running
through his mind

not enough
for the loss of sleep

and they say
that HE
has no imagination

ho ho
bloody ho

he’s half a mind
to chuck this job

words and all

he kicks
at a loose middle third
of an alphabet

shoves the last letters
into a plastic garbage bag
for incineration
and he’s done

off home now
for a drink

© Frank Prem, 2017

June 2017 Poem #35: daisy


11 thoughts on “the school cleaner

  1. “No, Mrs. Davis…I can’t help you put that cabinet together. I have to straighten up this school after you messy teachers. You can figure the cabinet out, but be careful! It’s heavy. No, I really can’t help you. I’m a specialist.” Excuse me…I thought that I was a specialist too…I said to myself as I put the cabinet together for the next two hours!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Just definite attitude problems! At one school, they would not empty our trash cans unless we carried them to the front of the room by the door. That wasn’t difficult, of course…but they had to walk all through the room to vacuum the carpet/mop the tiled areas. Therefore, walking by all trashcans!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this one – I used to teach, and can fully understand the frustration of cleaners after some of the messes my lot would try to leave!
    But this has a lot more to it than just the physical of course!

    Liked by 1 person

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