This morning I did four loads of laundry while reading a wonderful new book of poetry by Jacqueline Allen Trimble, American Happiness. (Watch for a review soon!) I was so inspired that I stopped and wrote a poem myself. I’m not a “real” poet, but sometimes I like to explore the genre. I hope you enjoy it.
Why I Don’t Hate Doing Laundry
by Susan Cushman
The laundry sorter stands between bedroom
and bath—its four neat containers
keeping our soiled items in order:
Darks. Whites. Perma-press. And
dress shirts to take to the cleaners.
I use a woven basket to transport
one load at a time to the laundry room;
It is the same basket that our first child
played in, almost forty years ago—a
memory captured in a photograph
that fills my heart with love on laundry day.
Even the darks will be sorted before
they enter the shiny front-loading machines—the nicest
ones we have ever had—which came with the house;
Sorting the darks? Isn’t that a bit anal?
Not when you consider that some are heavy
and others are light and need a shorter dry time.
The perma-press wants the lightest touch—only
fifteen minutes in the dryer and then on to
hangers right away, my hands smoothing collars
and shaking out the tiny wrinkles that remain
before they return to my husband’s closet
for another day, another trip, another meeting.
Whites are easy—warm, warm, white I told
our children when they were young;
cold, cold colors for everything else.
And thirty minutes on warm to dry and fluff
before the task of folding—taught to me
by my husband over forty years ago,
when he also showed me how to iron.
Skills he learned in childhood.
I do miss the smell of clothes warmed by the sun
on the clothesline I used as a newly wed;
Like the one my mother used—or sometimes
the maid—when I was young.
And so I often smell the white tee shirts and
warm towels as I pull them from the dryer,
hoping for a memory of those sunshiny days.
So much chaos in the world and sometimes
in our lives today, leaving me screaming
for order—for something I can control—even
if it’s only clothing and household linens.
I tried to control our children but now they
have their own families, their own chaos,
their own laundry. I wonder if they remember
warm warm white and cold cold colors.