It All Comes Out in the Wash
by Karla Linn Merrifield

I found this poem in the unfolded laundry
written mostly in shirts (with some socks),
my husband-to-be’s history in Oxford
cloths, soft from long years’ wear, (as
are his fingertips on my shoulders).
Tangle of two weeks’ pastel collars &
sleeves, cottony, still warm, mildly
wrinkled (like his cheek against my
breast). That basket of button-downs
yielded clues to his past when Sibley’s
& Forman’s thronged with customers, when
the Custom Shop shaped & monogrammed
these basics for the fashion-conscious
professionals flocking off to their jobs
twenty, fifteen, ten years ago.
                                                I hung
a sunset on wire hangers (hooks facing
chest pocket), mauve shirts, peach shirts,
dusk sky-blue shirts, cream & yellow shirts,
sixteen out of eighteen solid-colored,
sweet-smelling, & just as much mine as his
to care for if never wear with domestic pride.
I fondled & wrestled with love itself
& felt go gentle & clean & orderly.
With the shirts now filling his closet,
the doing of laundry fills me completely.
Those shirts & their poem breath: “Ahhh.”

Poem first published in Le Mot Juste.  

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