not soap: thirteenth rendering

I’m not a writer
I’m a mole
My house will be my grave
It was my father’s

My mother still lives in the city
In a small tidy flat

These days her needs are simple,
Enough to eat and drink
And the company of friends

It’s a self-sufficient life
Both mine and hers
And to some degree
A selfish one

She never met my girlfriend
I call her that but… never mind

On the bright side,
I wonder if she thinks of me
And what she’s doing
When she thinks of me

(My mother, you idiot
I can guess where your thoughts
Are leading!)

I often think of her when I’m cleaning.
My last girlfriend had some real issues
With the kind of life I lead

I found her,
I was the one to find her in the end…

My father met her shortly before he died
He got along with her very well
They shared an interest in
Interior decorating

It’s only thanks to the two of them
That my surroundings
Have any sense of style
At all

Not that I pay that much attention
I bury myself in my work
Which is probably what she objected to

Which is what she did, initially
“It’s not a habit!” I used to shout, testily
I liked to think of it as showing
Strength of character

I know that what I do for work is absurd
But it’s the way I do it
My application has always been

Even when pursuing courses
That would make most flinch
And turn back to the ordinary business
Of being human

I’ve remained steadfast and true
And without a goal,
And, in a way, selflessly

To the extent that when I made love to her
(This is after all what you wanted to hear
Isn’t it, about my love-life underground?)

I did so with the kind of abandon
That has to be more than habit,
That must be the thing itself.

It was a strong reckless love
Destructive, even, for me
But why not be extraordinary?

I was. I am. And if she saw my weakness
I could accept that, but what I couldn’t
Was what she didn’t see

That my weakness was also love
That my coldness was love
And that my distraction was love.

Now there’s no one against whom
I can gauge myself
I don’t know whether I’m strong
Or weak.

I move around,
Half-naked, covered in dirt,
Swearing like an old sailor,
Although I’ve never been to
The sea,

I cough my lungs up
And feel my legs give way
Like rotten timber.

I can do these things
Without a thought of being seen
If I have any talent at all
It resides in not being seen

I don’t have to
But I can

Because there’s no one
Telling me I don’t love,
I don’t care, and no one
Exactly following me.

I can squirm and roll
In whatever ugly liquid
Spills out of me into the ground

And like my mother, in my way
I’m looking after myself.

If I were a writer
And went to write my story
It would say, even as a mole
He was a good son,
Dirty but good.

If I ever wriggle to the bathroom
I’ll find that I don’t even own a bar of soap
If I look in the mirror
But I haven’t any

But if I look in, I’ll see
Reflected in a pool that has collected
In the red shadows
From the constant dripping
Nothing I haven’t forgotten,

A blur, which is not me looking away.
I’ll find a piece of pumice
As if the soil around here
Had been put down by layers
Of volcanic activity.

Whereas soap is a body, solid
Manufactured these days by a method
Of continuous production

Meaning that fresh ingredients are added
To the mixture up above
While down below the finished product
Is drawn off, pumice isn’t

And has no such connection to the body,
Before I can use it, notwithstanding this
And scrape away at my skin
I’m reminded of my confinement

At the centre of a porous surface
Pierced by countless malevolent eyes.