An ancient sweeper stationed outside the museum’s
entrance doors. The same one every day.
A mute. Diminutive. Crescent back,
leathered skin, toothless sunken cheeks.
Garb a coarse blue denim sack.
Something foreign in her withered face.
Her look like a model
for avant-garde images exhibited inside,
oil on canvas, a book of verse.
She pushes a wooden broom along.
Hard brown bristles. Artful, jerky,
syncopated strokes. Her brushwork
scrapes and scuffs the cobblestones
to finished grade, leveling the ground
as she cleans, as a servant swept up as a means
in the earth’s soiled details. Pausing the rasping notes
from time to time to catch her breath
in midday’s dense hot air, she keeps going,
thrusting her trash cart forward.
Lunchtime breaks her rounds.
At intermission, one routine
She shares a sandwich
with an urchin beggar,
also a regular in the shadows of the gate.
He stakes out the familiar spot every day,
going about his business
in the common enterprise,
concerned for that day’s bread alone.