“At the Scrub Board”

This poem goes to the laundrymat at home
in Alabama—yes, I know it’s laundromat!
But that’s now how we pronounce it there--

The clouds woke up early this morning, talking
to each other, first a patter, then a long cackling
boom, they washed us and swished us, everything
was out of focus, 11 a.m. Sunday morning,
I might as well go to the laundrymat, everyone
would be in church. But when I arrived, every
machine was spinning, all the other odd-not-even
ones had the same idea: there were blue dragons
guarding the door of a grey SUV; a harried single
white woman slamming the dryer doors like gears
between shifts; three Mexicanos who’d ironed
their denim shirts; a family, three-year-old girl,
young Asian woman, older white man, crimped
and trembling; a very young skinny white guy,
a tattoo shadow hiding in the nape of his thin neck.
He stands outside smoking a cigarette, furiously,
he’s talking to one of the Latinos, their hands
squared and angled, pointing, some information
exchanged, with me too, as I watch and guess,
not much like the Sunday school cut-felt stories
I saw pressed onto the flannel easel, the camel,
the rich man, the eye of the needle, the teacher
a banker who bribed us to come and listen,
that thrilling ride after church in his personal plane
over my house, Mama waving under, small, smaller,
up over the grey-green trees, the hump-backed
little hills, the river threading between, the town,
the county spread out and waiting to be folded up
and put in his pocket, he said he’d keep it safe.
I see the eye of the future looking back my way,
the rain pours down, we keep putting quarters
into the thunder-rolling machines that don’t
belong to us, tomorrow’s Monday, and how we
get there, me and my neighbors who do
our own washing, that’s for us to figure out.

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010

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