Road Stop

Not all laundromats are sad.
Back in the Village, the one I frequented
was a place to read and watch what women
turn on the delicate cycle for.
I was younger then and wanted to live
in a city, and count myself among
the fashionably poor. Now these women
at the Wash 'N Dry, fingering their coins
in this terrible brightness, just seemed tired.
Maybe all the women back on Bank Street
were tired; I wouldn't have noticed.
Maybe all women everywhere are tired
and even the loveliest, flimsy things
sometimes feel like burdens to take off--
late at night, say, in the wrong mood,
and someone waiting with a smile.
Today these machines look like
the secured masks of deep-sea divers,
and what swirls in them is controlled
confusion, which each of us understands.
I mix my whites and darks together,
as I always do, and a young woman
with a child and a Live Free or Die 
T-shirt says No, that's bad.
I tell her I'm interested in speed.
I don't say I've a house
with a washing and drying room, or
my clothes are old enough not to bleed.
Nor do I say I haven't been
to a laundromat in twenty years.
This could be a bus station
the way the solitary faces stare, but she
has a child to scold, no time to stare.
I'm far from home. There's no telling
how I look to those who look so hard
or what, to them, my laundry reveals.
Here's a clean man, they could be thinking.
He must have done something wrong.

:: Stephen Dunn, Loosestrife (1996)

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