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.