Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An Opera of Soap

I pine for the days of blue shampoo
and mouthwash lip-gloss red,
When one could actually pour
“Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific”
on your head,
Those brave days of Binaca Blast,
Hai Karate and McLeans
Of Phisohex and Burma-Shave,
Wella-Balsam and Brylcreem,
When soap came on a rope
and Calgon could take me away
From Mr. Bubble smiling
on the back side of the box and, say
The heartbreak of psoriasis,
static cling and spotted dishes
And ring around the collar,
that once and constant crisis,
With lemon-freshened borax,
scrubbing bubbles, Ammonia D,
Like a fragrant foamy friend
who only lived to make me happy.
I pine for the days
when Pine-Sol smelled like pine
and the Breck girls were on the bottle
and only your hairdresser knew for sure,
and no one thought Noxzema
was Neutrogena, not even your sister.

The days of Prince Matchabelli
(not the Prince by Machiavelli)
flavored lipstick,
When there actually was a King Gillette,
Lord Wilkinson, Sir Schick,
When Clorox actually was made out of the sea
And Maybelline was coal tar
mixed with Vaseline,
And Pantene came from the same lab
that synthesized LSD,
And Crest, if you ingested it,
required you to call poison control
immediately (strangely not the case, though,
if you swallowed Listerine).

Who knew that using sugar cane
for war wounds ‘stead of cotton
Would lead nurses to try it
as a sanitary napkin?
And for soldiers to blow with it
their noses, birthing Kotex and then Kleenex
And, Yankee see and Yankee do,
Band-Aids, Q-Tips and Tampax,
Til Pampers begat Kimbies
begat Luvs begat Huggies begat Depends.
The first roll-on deodorant
was modeled on a ball-point pen.
Petroleum replaced palm oil
replaced whale tallow, lard and hickory
As Tone came down from Dove came from Camay
came from Cashmere Bouquet,
As Comet came from Connecticut quartz-encrustred
little Dutch girl Bon Ami;
The synthetics that came like marching bands
with names like Tide and Cheer
made her a casualty.

But now they’ve sold Niagara, RIT, Twinkle
Octagon and Oxydol,
Brillo and Fels Naptha,
Purex and Parson’s Ammonia,
The names live on forever
in a warehouse in New Jersey
But they’ve gone on to the swiffers
and gender-specific diapers
And toothbrushes that use sound waves
to kill bacteria.
There aren’t even any phosphates,
all cleaning must be green,
Even Unilever bought the farm
to save the Amazon palm tree.

A younger generation cannot comprehend
the endless human mind
That creates, creates, creates, creates
and leaves so much behind:
The hole-in-the-walls for old razor blades,
the laundry pins and strings
That glow in gilded darkness as
the fat immortal sings.