Laundry poem ending with lines from James Brush

You have kept your treasures
sewn into your hemlines
Kristen Berkey-Abbott, Exercising Freedom

The 80-pound puppy’s been
following me from room
to room
licking the outer
seam of my jeans
just above the knee.
As the means of his investigation
slowly soaks in against
my thigh, I stop
to give him my attention
and thoughtfully consider
what exactly
he is doing.

He is not yet a full year
old, and doesn’t have a grasp
of personal space
or boundaries. (As far as
he’s concerned, we’d all do better
in this world if we stayed
glued together
at the hip.) And so, with no
inhibitions, he’s been reading
my diary, the moments
of my personal history
left out in the open
when I rinsed my hands too
briefly in the sink, then
wiped them on my jeans.

He’s reading cumin
and cilantro, pepper-bean-tomato-
and-zucchini tacos. He’s
been reading and, as young
readers do, letting what he’s reading
transport him
into an imaginary place
where dogs not only are
permitted in the kitchen, but
get to share in meals
prepared there, maybe even
their own chairs right
at the table.

Or maybe not. Perhaps
something gets lost in translation.
But, to facilitate moving
more easily through the day
I go ahead and wash
my hands again and change.

And now it’s time to tend
to laundry, and as I take each
item out of the hamper, turn
the pockets, I begin to look
at each more closely. (The puppy’s
right beside me, delighted
to be teaching this old
dog new tricks.) Together,
we examine closely a plaid shirt
my husband wore while working
on the neighbor’s barbed wire
fencing. It’s black-and-red-
and-gray plaid flannel,

not one to show much
surface evidence, but puppy
sniffs insistently at the cuff,
and so I stop and sit
down on the floor
to look more closely.

The family that reads together…
Never mind. What is this darker
stain that wasn’t there before?
It appears in splotches, something
that was wet and spread, then
dried. And here, a tear
along the sleeve I hadn’t seen.
Perhaps dried blood? The mister
has not said anything to me
about getting any injuries. We turn
the page, set that one into
the washer and extract the next:
an olive green bandana, one of those
he takes with him as handkerchiefs.

This has a dark patch on it
and tight creases, like a tie-dye
project, and puppy tastes
it briefly and whines a tiny
bit and turns his head away.
This one’s still a bit damp from
something and I sniff it, catch
the briefest whiff: steel? spinach?
iron? blood. Barbed-wire fencing.
A snag, a bleeding gash,
a staunching. A wound hidden,
left unmentioned. So here’s me:

sitting on the washroom floor,
also reading someone’s diary,
noticing things I’d never really
noticed about laundry. My old
jacket smells like
incense and french fries now.

We keep reading the news.


Closing lines are from “The Monotony of Ice” by James Brush. Read all the laundry poems here.

Series Navigation← Laundry Poem #6: Spring TurningWashing Instructions →

6 Comments


  1. I like the poem and how you used the lines too. Didn’t even realize where they came from as I was reading it. Well done!

    Reply

  2. This whole poem is wonderful. And this: “(The puppy’s
    right beside me, delighted
    to be teaching this old
    dog new tricks.) ” And this: “So here’s me:

    sitting on the washroom floor,
    also reading someone’s diary,”

    Reply

    1. I learned some things in the process of writing this one, Tony…with puppy’s assistance, of course.

      Reply

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