crosshatch laundromat

Laundro night. I choose a different Mat each time. This one is the smallest yet. I take my Kindle even though I have to read fast because there are only 20ish minutes of wash cycle. And because I don’t dry my clothes very much (damp jeans and sweaters hanging on banisters at home) I find myself wishing I could stay longer, wanting to read without a stop watch.  I could stay home and read at leisure, but it wouldn’t be the same, would it.  I’m working at letting more contrast into my life.

A college girl one row over is learning laundromat tips from her aunt. When the aunt leaves,  a cousin comes to make  girl company at the table to my right. Ever since the Sidney teacher was abducted on her morning run last weekend, it’s been agreed across eastern Montana that  young girls should never be left alone.

The three of us watch a man in jogging clothes enter with a small basket. Oh, the production he makes of loading two washers at the same time and fitting seven quarters into slot devices that line the quarters in a row. Left hand working one machine, right hand working the other. I watch over the top of my own three washers as he readies both machines, pours detergent free-handed, and chooses between Permanent Press and Delicate. And then he reaches for the two slot devices—slams the quarters in. Claps his hands, leaps air, pivots and leaves the building. We watch him leave, no comment.

An older woman, stout and with a low center of gravity comes through the  double doors with two huge vats of dirty clothes, wheel-mounted these vats.  Such sure movements with her wrists. Economy of motion. She has the hands of my grandmother, hands that lose their anger in hot, soapy water. She isn’t at all upset at having to fill 7 machines with dirty clothes. Two machines in one row, three in another and two scattered in the back row. I sorta envy the dirty clothes—the way she shakes out jeans, turns socks right-sided. Love. In the way she takes care of wadded-up bath towels, she’s taking care of children back home probably watching TV right now and finishing up the supper dishes.

Before the Laundromat, I met my fishing buddy in the parking lot of a ranch supply store. I thought I was there to jump start his vehicle, but when I arrived  he waved from outside his car: Come in the store with me. I used to work inside this old store, one of my many part-time jobs to help get my kids through college. This is where my poems first came from. Every weekend I’d wrap the green apron around my hips and haul dog food samples into the store, teaching people about pet nutrition. The difference between lamb and lamb meal; labeling laws in the USA. When there was no one to talk to, I wandered the aisles, caught up and lost at the same time in a world I’d always thought I would one day enter but never did. Chicken feed, sweet mix, salt licks, pitchforks.

We wandered the aisles even after we found the car charger he needed. With the latest winter constraints in his life,  he goes from work to home to the grocery store and so he said—let’s look around. As if we were on an outing, a date. And typical of time spent with this man who loves to fish, the world took on new meaning: why the rope twisted, why the brackets welded, why the salt licks drilled. I followed him like a school child, absorbed and wanting more.

Leave it to Floyd at the County Ranch Supply Store

Because nothing changes in the back of Big R,
I come here to listen to the century-worn
floor creak each time a customer walks in,
mid-stride in ancient conversation. The merits
of a rabbit hutch, which pastures are short on salt licks,
temptations of sweet mix for a colt, bottles for orphaned lambs.
Floyd’s name tag is peeling from his May-I-Help-You vest,
black marker on surgical tape, the ‘D’ no longer visible.

He sorts tomato packs, talking with a man
whose fishing hat says “Salmon, the other pink meat.”
He needs food for a rescued baby woodpecker,
and is worried it cannot see. Happens that Floyd
wrote a paper in sixth grade, he remembers
those babies are blind for thirty days. I envy that his past
is still with him today. When I was twelve I wrote a paper
about Twiggy with Jane, the girl with a dark space
in her house where all the boys went to kiss her. I sat
at the table, writing the paper for both of us.

Maybe if I had written about calla lilies
I’d understand now why nothing blooms
next to my kitchen sink. I’m reading
the bulb packaging when Floyd stops by
to help. He considers me before he tells me nothing
grows without contrast in its life. He says we all need
the night time cold, some daytime sun. Now
and then – a wind to toss our stalks.


This poem was first published at YB Poetry Journal. Click click.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

10 responses to “crosshatch laundromat

  1. Rose Hunter

    No way! LOVE! As you know. 🙂 If I were there (in the laundromat), I’d put in a green scarf…. Heh.
    I love this poem (of course)! I remember reading it – seems like so long ago! – and how it spoke to me. And that was way back in YB’s little history/timeline, before we knew each other; I read your Bukowski poem at Babel Fruit and thought who is this one with the red mittens, and bugged you for a poem, and you were nice enough to send! 🙂 Least I think that’s how it went down…. 🙂

    • redmitten

      your green scarf with a load of whites in the dryer would be a great show! your green on my white.

      and yes to your curiosity! had you not pulled the thread on my bukowski poem to see where it would lead, we would yet to “meet”. and that is how it went down! and now i am caught up in all your You As poems and hope everyone pulls the thread that will lead them to . . .

  2. love the poem, love the blog
    favorite line: She has the hands of my grandmother, hands that lose their anger in hot, soapy water.

    • redmitten

      mm- when we were little, our grandma would wash our “paddies” and for the longest time i’d think it was about getting our hands clean, but now i understand the soothing powers of lather and hot water. oh and her hands massaging ours– yes! my sister still keeps a bar of ivory soap here and there in her house- one whiff of that recalls those days with grandma.

  3. I think I just climbed into the poem, and for a moment I was there but also in my own place too, just blowing in the wind.

    Lovely, lovely poem.

    • redmitten

      i knew someone else was in that poem. you, then! and yes, how it can be that you are there and also here. and perhaps the wind connects. thank you for the lovely comment.

  4. “I’m working at letting more contrast into my life.’ Thank you, Sherry, for yet another inspiration. Homework for today: Find contrast.

  5. I never kissed Jane; was always at home too. You brought me back to old days when I used to go to feed stores, New England-style. Trout instead of salmon on the hats.

    • redmitten

      oh, new england style! with the same janes, the same homework on the table. balconies in new england, timberlines in montana. i’d love to hear a feed store story from you.

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