Sean Singer: A Poem I Love

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Melvin Dixon’s “Spring Cleaning”

Melvin Dixon died of AIDS in 1992 and is one of our most underrated poets. “Spring Cleaning” alludes to what Ralph Ellison called “the jagged grain,” the texture of experiencing the blues in one’s life. Dixon, an African-American, a homosexual, an intellectual, and a great artist, seems to sum up his own being-it-itself (a mode of existence that simply is) in “Spring Cleaning.”

The detritus and dust of the room mixes with the physical body of a lover who is dying. A combination of hibernation and dissipation, the body is reduced even as the love for it tends to increase. The elements and its corollary of death, time, become erotically charged (“salt-tongued air”) and these elements allow the lovers to become renewed. The beauty expressed by the final stanza has the echo of a mountain from a valley: as the lovers’ bodies become annihilated they resume their domestic cleaning, free of dirt, virus, judgment, and the mania of illness and resume a kind of peaceful coexistence.


Sean Singer’s first book Discography won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, selected by W.S. Merwin, and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. He has also published two chapbooks, Passport and Keep Right On Playing Through the Mirror Over the Water, both with Beard of Bees Press and is the recipient of a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His work has recently appeared in Memorious, Pleiades, Souwester, Iowa Review, New England Review, and Salmagundi. He has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Rutgers-Newark. He lives in Harlem, New York City. More from this author →