Friday, July 21, 2006

July 21, 2006: On Ironing

I love this poem by Marsha Truman Cooper, found in today's American Life in Poetry. I wish I had written it first. In fact, I have a poem I call, "Imagine Mother Ironing" in the works. This poem so captures the intricate and intimate yet tedious task of ironing:
"The odor of sweat rises/when you do/under the armpits,/the owner's particular smell/you can never quite wash out." Great stuff.
Ironing After Midnight

Your mother called it
"doing the pressing,"
and you know now
how right she was.
There is something urgent here.
Not even the hiss
under each button
or the yellow business
ground in at the neck
can make one instant
of this work seem unimportant.
You've been taught
to turn the pocket corners
and pick out the dark lint
that collects there.
You're tempted to leave it,
but the old lessons
go deeper than habits.
Everyone else is asleep.
The odor of sweat rises
when you do
under the armpits,
the owner's particular smell
you can never quite wash out.
You'll stay up.
You'll have your way,
the final stroke
and sharpness
down the long sleeves,
a truly permanent edge.

Reprinted from "River Styx," No. 32, 1990, by permission of the author, whose most recent book is "Substantial Holdings," Pudding House Publications, 2002. Poem copyright (c) 1990 by Marsha Truman Cooper.

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