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.
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.