Scrubbing Marble Steps

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Greetings from the postcard city of Scrubbing Marble Steps. This is a city in black and white. The steps for which this city is named are exceptionally white and bring to mind the classical gods, unchiseled as yet from their marble. These steps are not grand in size. There are no porticos or urns of well-tended flowers or stone lions. But these marble steps aspire to grandeur. They dream, like the unsculpted gods sleeping within them.

In this postcard city, women in house dresses and aprons and stockings rolled at their knees bow down to these steps. The women scrub at them with large wooden brushes frothy with soap from pale buckets, as if washing the feet of their gods. They scrub their dreams free of cigarettes ground under the feet of husbands in fedoras, the slop from gutters, rain spray from bus tires, the mud and melted ice cream from children’s shoes, the blood from the Saturday night scuffle at the corner bar, the pigeon droppings from cornices high above.

The marble steps go on and on along Eastern Avenue in this postcard city like a funhouse mirror. Distortions of dreams of the immaculate, dirtied and scrubbed, dirtied and scrubbed. Identical portals to an American dream of bootstraps and diplomas, businessmen and good wives who know their cutlery and copper polish. Portals to temples of Whirlpool appliances and A&P green stamp mantel clocks. To children scrubbed clean as the children of their white marble gods. You would know your place in the city of Scrubbing Marble Steps. This can be a comfort.

A poem: SCRUBBING MARBLE STEPS by Barbara Diehl




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About Author

Barbara Westwood Diehl is founding editor of The Baltimore Review. Her fiction and poetry have been published in a variety of journals, including Quiddity, Potomac Review (Best of the 50), Measure, Rivet, SmokeLong Quarterly, Gargoyle, Superstition Review, Per Contra, Thrush Poetry Journal, Tishman Review, The MacGuffin, Unbroken, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

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