Janitor in the House of Soul

I’m a janitor in the house of soul,
working each night with broom and mop,
pushing my old cart with dust rags and cleaners
through the dream time.
The body sleeps while I toil
vacuuming the worn books and tall shelves
filled with intricate records of relationship.
In winter months there are lots of visitors,
inquiring about family stories,
reading the how to books of salvation.
I’m not the librarian, only the janitor,
dusting the long tables and many chairs
for those who do the winter work.
You can spot the studious researchers
with bent shoulders and bowed heads
turning the yellowed pages of ancient tomes,
lips silently moving as they repeat their incantations.
I keep to myself, one hand on the cart
and one on the beads I carry and thumb,
hailing Mary and hallowed be the Father
while I mop the tears and scrawl a few notes
of those I’ve loved and forgiven
before the lights go out in morning.




photograph by Edward Leon





















Reading of “Janitor in the House of Soul” with music by the Memphis Sanctified Singers


16 Responses to “Janitor in the House of Soul”

  1. David Barnes says:

    My old teacher Hugh said to me in 1972: The Lord can be present anywhere that you are present, even if you’re just pushing a broom. Taking his words to heart, I pushed that broom for many years of shining Temple Service—and all that prayerful tending brings me here today, to be with you, reading this verse carefully tucked between the covers of this book within the living library of our collective soul—49 years from cover to cover of personal fulfilment, represented by your poem Don. Gratitude Brother.

  2. Taylor Goforth says:

    LOVE this image Don!! and all it brings to the heart and soul of my life now. Cleaning and tending, as above, so below. 🙂

  3. Lloyd Meeker says:

    Definitely time to do the winter work!

    I’m intrigued by the separate images of those (others) who do the winter work and the janitor doing his as part of his job. I think there’s less distance between them than it seemed on first read.

    No matter the images, it’s definitely time to do the winter work, and mercifully the long table is more clear of debris in the morning than it was when I went to sleep. Thank you, Janitor!

  4. Tom Figel says:

    Don, this poem is extraordinary, wonderfully imaginative with the image of the night mind as the janitor. Nancy is reminded of a novel named “The Night Librarian” and wonders if you may be familiar with it: not terrific (like Jay’s blog), she says, but interesting . I doubt the book holds a candle to your poem, even at times the janitor is off duty.

  5. Maria Frid says:

    How funny that the world diminishes the work of a janitor, house maid, etc, as menial work. I once read that if the waste was not picked up in a city for weeks, the decay and the health of the city would be tremendous! Thank you Don for elevating the importance of the Janitor’s work. So I praise the notion of handing the key to our own janitor to do away with the old tomes that linger in our hearts and minds!

  6. Sandy Jensen says:

    You’re on a roll with the sustained creation of an extended metaphor. I really love this one and the last one—the way a different kind of persona is created, letting the reader further into the imaginal and spiritual world you’ve created.
    Very cool!

  7. Mary Bramlage Minton SMC '69 says:

    The image and the allegory are beautiful, Don! I identify the poem as my nighttime dream activity, realized and remembered or not, as I am getting older. I want to read this a thousand times.

  8. Marco Menato says:

    I had a bittersweet feeling in reading this wonderful story; the one I experience when the usually invisible janitor suddenly receives public acknowledgment for his humble but essential contribution. And in the context of the unconscious cleansing of sleep it is so seldom that the conscious mind finds the humility to doff the cap. Thank you for facilitating that sense of gratitude!

  9. Lawrence Kiser says:

    Thank you Don, wonderful imagery and really liked the picture of the monk as if he were the Janitor, as we all are, as we daily sweep the dross from our system forgiving ourself and others for everything. A joy to begin each day with the knowing of a clean slate, for being the janitor requires lots of conscious effort, at least in the beginning. Blessings.

  10. Once again… Thank you for your ever-unfolding quiet workings of creative wordsmithing, Don. It’s heartening. Always touching an eternal chord. ❤

  11. Ravenstalk says:

    ~ swish swish swish ~

  12. Veronica Lim says:

    I appreciate the humility your words express, and your reference to the work our subconscious does while our bodies slumber. Thank you, Don.

  13. David Banner says:

    Ever poignant, this guy!

  14. Eilish Hynes says:

    This is a favorite dad. I feel you very deep in this place🙏🏼✨👁🙇🏻‍♀️

  15. Brenda Jenkins says:

    I too am experiencing the swish swish and dust on my fingers on these winter nights. Important work done by a peaceful heart. I love the calm and ease of the mood and images; it creates a very visual experience, so much so I can smell the dusty books. Wonderful, humble, and so true. I love it.

  16. Chris W Dalengas says:

    Nicely done, Don!!

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