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Poetry on the Picketline The ground-in dirt

the cleaner goes around at 9pm every evening
tidying up the shit that the controllers couldn’t be bothered to put in the bins.
from the back wall under the 20-foot-long controller’s desk
the cleaner pulls out polystyrene cups, discarded sweets, used tissues,
crumpled up crisp packets, pen lids, Ginster sausage roll wrappers
and bits of cucumber and tomato that have fallen
from the sandwiches the controllers eat and then foot-soled into the carpet.
the cleaner washes up all of the dishes and plates and the knives and forks
left piled up in the sink that the controllers couldn’t be bothered to wash,
he cleans out the toilets and mops up the piss that the controllers
couldn’t get into the urinals, he wipes their controllers’ chairs clean
and uses a scented fragrance to neutralise the stench of their sweat,
he polishes the laminated glass-topped control desks
that the controllers have spilt coffee and sticky drinks on
until they are so perfectly slidey-smooth-clean
that you could glide a sheet of paper from one end to the other
only for the controllers to come in the next day
to moan about how the cleaner is a ‘lazy-arsed son of a bitch’
who should ‘fuck off back to Colombia’
because he has forgotten to refill both of the soap dispensers
in the controllers’ toilets once again.
after 4 years cleaning up after these controllers I guess he has
just come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter
how much soap is put on offer because there is some dirt
that is so ground in you will never get it clean.

The cleaners at my work have been with us for over for years. They aren’t from an outsourced facilities and cleaning company, they are employed by a guy who runs his own business. The cleaners are all related and often have their cousins, sisters or brothers cover for them if they can’t make it in. They smile and bow whenever I come across them and they play music in their earphones as they go about doing an unbelievable job for what most probably is less than the living wage. And yet, there are some things that just can’t be cleaned. My latest book is called ROAR! and was published this year by Smokestack Books.

Poetry on the Picket Line is a squad of like-minded poets putting themselves about to read their work on picket lines, in the spirit of solidarity. Invitations to rallies etc. welcome, contact



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