The Cleaning Crew (Poetry)

This one cleaning guy walks with a limp,
Has a useless arm, and curses to himself
(On top of all that, he’s prematurely bald)
Like many other afternoons at the office,
Until this guy came in to do his job,
I was blissfully alone, sitting at my desk,
Watching YouTube, hoping to write stuff,
Wishing that nobody would call for an issue

They keep sending different cleaning workers,
But they are all the kind that keep muttering,
Maybe hoping to start a conversation,
Maybe just to have their existence acknowledged,
Or maybe there’s a correlation between
Such verbal incontinence
And having to clean hospitals for a living

“I can’t do this shit in thirty minutes
Who the fuck does she think she is,”
The crippled guy grumbled
While he mopped the floor
With his remaining healthy arm

Through his festering bitterness,
I imagined this guy’s entire life
As being filled with such complaints;
He never felt happy, loved, nor appreciated,
Not for a single day since he was born

I wondered if anyone ever told him
That muttering a series of curse words
Makes people want to listen even less;
I was a quiet kid who opened his mouth
To curse when he couldn’t help it,
Until I realized that it sounded ugly,
So from then on I only cursed in my mind,
At the world and at myself

Another cleaning worker came, a woman
I don’t look at their faces if I can avoid it
(She likely wasn’t a model,
And if I want to stare at a tired, wrinkly face,
From lack of sleep and constant stress,
I just look in the mirror instead),
But she sounded like she was in her forties
Both started a loud, private conversation,
As I sat there trying to waste my time
By watching Korean videos on YouTube

They ranted about another coworker:
“She said that my girlfriend would leave me,”
The crippled cleaning guy complained
“You know that she won’t clean the fifth?
Because of the COVID patients, she says,
But those were moved to other floors
I keep asking her why do I have to do her job,
And she just repeats that she won’t go there”

The cleaning woman added to the conversation:
“You know that she used to work in the kitchen?
She came drunk often, and one day
She was stumbling while snot ran down her nose,
And she dropped some pottage on the floor,
But instead of throwing it away,
She put it back in the pot
Another coworker freaked out, and contacted me
Because she didn’t know how to stop her,
And they ended up calling security”

The crippled cleaning guy cursed
“That stupid bitch, she looked at my phone
For just a few seconds, got to see my girlfriend,
And she said that she looked like a cheap whore”
The cleaning woman shook her head
“I don’t know how someone like that can exist”

I could hear every word as I sat there,
And in such cases I can never tell
If people like these want to be heard
(Some people just need to be listened to),
Or if their minds don’t allow them to realize
That they are cleaning someone else’s office,
Where someone is trying to do his job
(And at that moment, my job consisted
Of watching videos of a hot Korean model)

I didn’t stick around for them to finish;
My bowels were churning and burning,
As usual due to this IBS curse,
So I slipped away to take a shit

When I came back, they were gone,
So I returned to my precious solitude,
This time for a new batch of prank videos
As I waited for the remaining time to pass
Until I could exit the hospital into the night,
To wait for my bus to come,
Then to wait for my train to come,
Then to walk through my shitty city,
Until I could finally hide between my walls,
So tomorrow I can do it all over again,
And pull off a few hours of real work
While I try to ignore the sound of cursing
Inside my own brain

In such days I feel that no one
Wants to live in this world,
That there isn’t a single person
Who would choose to stay,
Yet we all do it anyway
(Until the day when we don’t)

We spend our whole life
Doing what others ask us to,
While always hoping that
Someone will appreciate it
And love us for who we are,
But nobody ever does

It’s just a futile game
That you can’t win,
Yet you have to play it anyway,
So today I did it too:
I wrote an ugly poem
About those guys who complain
And curse because of a life
That is not worth living

‘The Cleaning Crew’ by Jon Ureña

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