Summers I worked at the laundry,
Money for college. This was in the ’50s,
People still got polio then.
We washed the dingy garments of the shoe towns
(We still had them in New Hampshire then)
And the fine percale of the folk
Who lived down gated roads by the lake.
The girls who did the folding
(We called them girls then)
Would offer coarse jokes
About the bed sheets of the rich.
And I, caught, then as now,
Somewhere in the middle,
Passed wrenches to Neil, our boss,
As he straddled the ancient boiler,
Expert turnings of things we chose to think
Kept us from blowing up.
He nursed and finally lost a son to polio.
For forty years I went by his house
And we would recall the ones
Who ran the presses, fed the mangle.
The laundry is gone, of course,
Chiropractors and aroma therapists in its space;
Gone, too, is Neil, my gentle friend,
Who valued me in a fragile time,
On hot July afternoons,
Steamy with the innocent fragrance of
Starch, fresh linen, decent toil.
First place winner in the 2007 Conway Library Poetry Contest.
Robert Demaree, a retired educator, is the author of four collections, including Mileposts (2009), published by Beech River Books. He has had over 550 poems published in 125 periodicals. Robert’s “Seascape” and “Pick Your Own” are also in Reprint.
Object(s) to bring back to life: “These functions are now performed by something that fits in the palm of your hand, but I still miss the jukeboxes in those 1950’s restaurants we went to after school—the ones in the booths with the pages that turned, but also the grand Wurlitzer, lights bubbling, that magically moved into place those great hits by Patti Page, The Platters, The Righteous Brothers. I also miss my daughter’s gigantic NCR desktop computer—must have weighed 60 pounds—that I hauled up five flights of stairs in the freshman dorm, in the fall of 1984.”