Laundry Poem #4: Suds

You know the beginning of certain
dreams by the signals they send—
Chime ringing behind one door
at the end of a long hallway
from “Found” by Luisa A. Igloria

A different year, a different state,
a different bar…this one called
Suds, and open early, from 8 AM

to midnight six days, and 1 PM
to 10 on Sunday. It occupied one
end of an old strip-mall, really
two business locations: the watering-

hole on the corner, and an adjoining
washeteria, one with no apparent entry.
My first visit was an accident, or rather,

just to ask to use their phone to call
one in, a fender-bender on the corner
I’d just passed (no one hurt, but both
the drivers asked me please to stop

somewhere and ring the police). No cell
phones then, but payphones in transition:
some a quarter, but sometimes still

a dime. When I stepped in, first thing
I heard was a chime, followed by
the proprietor (in a formal voice
befitting any maître-d’) announcing:

Number Four. Your laundry is ready.
I thought I’d misheard, but followed
the young woman who’d stood up from

a wood table on which sat a small
red pyramid emblazoned with a 4. She
broke off the conversation she was
having with a friend and headed

toward the back, around the corner
of the bar and through a door into
a sort of airlock with two phones,

one-dollar-or-five-dollars change
machine, and three adjoining entries:
Ladies, Gents, and Laundry. I rang
the police as promised, then explored…

Behind door three, sixteen machines,
eight each to wash and dry, each with
a painted number beside the coin-feeder.

Above the rows, a CCTV camera panned
slowly back and forth above the status-
of-operation lights, and as dryer number
five was winding down to come in for

a landing, again the chime and maître-d’
announcing: Number Five. Your laundry.
I fell in love. It was such a practical,

delightful way of doing. I stepped back
through the airlock, sat at the bar and asked
if I could maybe get a coffee. While
the barkeep poured, he kept an eye

on a little screen beside the register.
Then he came over, said: All clear till
Number One is dry. Your first time here?

We got to chatting casually, he said he
was the owner actually, and had a couple
other barkeeps who’d come in now and then
to spell him, but mostly he was there.

We were interrupted for two Michelob,
another shot of Dewar’s, and a double
shot of fabric softener in a paper cup.

The bar was slightly damp, my coffee mug
had slipped a bit. He toweled it up, gave
me a cardboard coaster, one with a picture
of a painting: Degas. A Woman Ironing.


(The closing coaster is a nod to Neil Creighton’s poem “Ironer.” See the previous poems in the series here, here and here.)

Series Navigation← Where the West BeginsLaundry Poem #5: Inverted Voodoo →

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