Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ode to the Laundromat On Its 66th Anniversary

Peter Pan, The Laundry and Your Poem

Each washing machine at Shockey's has a name in black script,
Evelyn, Ida, Donna, or Tom.
It's a quiet afternoon and the change machines aren't cooperating:
They take a five-dollar bill and spit a single quarter back.

Amidst the kids' laundry, separated into three piles,
Like the children in the Darling family-big,middle,baby-
Your poem arrives.

Your handwriting on the envelope, some type of trick with time,
Propels me to another moment ten years before,
When I found your poem together in my mailbox with an orange.

I was quite content, before Peter Pan arrived
Playing his pipes at the foot of my bed,
Searching through the bureau drawers for his lost shadow.

At first I read the poem in gulps, like swallowing chocolate whole,
Just happy to be holding something from you, something that made me
Feel those other days, the magic fairy dust.

The second time I read it, I felt the air in the lines, the structure,
The girders lying beneath the words. And the third time I read it,
I recognized that, however many lives we live, whatever land we fly to,
The stars will guide us still.

Dryers spin off balance as I hold the pages in my hand. My daughter
Reads a chapter book in the scooped plastic chair. Look, I have a daughter,
Look, you have a son, I have two sons, you have a wife, you have a house, a job.

Into the laundromat walks a man with a red ponytail, short cutoffs.
How jealous I am he has only one load, uses only one dryer,
While my daughter and I have three carts hung with shirts like
The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

His face, when I finally see it, is yours.
That boyish, pixie charm. Here is Pan all grown up,
Folding his laundry, shadow sewn securely to the backs of his heels.

by Melissa White
courtesy Santa Fe Poetry Broadside.

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