“When Asked to Clean Your Room” by Amy Hassinger


(”Just the two of us” by Gisella Klein, CC BY 2.0)

When Asked To Clean Your Room

“Come see my museum,” you say,
and you lead me, a hand on my arm,
to your window seat,
where you have arranged your collection of treasures,
each grouping labeled in careful ballpoint print
on a folded piece of notebook paper.

There are rose quartz and shark teeth and foreign coins
purple fluorite from the Shawnee National Forest
a fold-out folio of state quarters and
an abalone shell, curving like a boat’s hull,
its interior pearlescent and stained with sea.
A long line of Pale Rocks
a short one of Bumpies,
and three eucalyptus nuts, wrinkled brown, like ancestral faces.
In a glass Ball jar half-filled with water,
a grey stone floats, its surface as cratered as the moon.
Pumice, the amazing floating rock! the label reads,
and then close by, there is Not-Pumice:
a small white stone, pocked, too,
but a sinker. Seashells, a fake arrowhead,
a striped hawk’s feather, and two whole rows
of Spotted Rocks.
There is a blue Chinese-brocade pouch, with a sliver of mica inside,
flaky and iridescent, like mineral fingernails.
And finally, your baby teeth,
kept in a handmade cardboard box,
decorated with gold lace and white lamé.

The next day, when you are at school,
and the only noise in the house
is the water cycling through the aquarium filter,
I come and kneel before your museum.
I see how the rose quartz shines, as if with oil from your fingertips,
how the fluorite winks in the light,
how the abalone boat holds steady
as the pumice nestles close to the glass,
and the frayed edge of the white lamé
on the handmade box of baby teeth
lifts into the air
as if it remembers your breath.

We sit, your treasures and I,
all of us obedient
to your gentle alignment.

Amy Hassinger is the author of three novels, two of them published, the third hunting a home. Her writing has won awards from venues including Creative Nonfiction, Publisher’s Weekly, and the Illinois Arts Council, and she has published work in magazines including Creative Nonfiction, The Writers’ Chronicle, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches in the University of Nebraska’s MFA in Writing Program. You can find out more about her at www.amyhassinger.com