“Seldon didn’t send the bar towels he promised; how am I supposed to cover that?… Brooklyn, Jesus, sent the wrong size tablecloths. I’m so aggravated! It’s all goddamn aggravation.”
Every night, the same rant: life at the Laundry
the meal yelled through,
the rest of us bowed heads to our plates, taking it;
forking down food quick, making it
the bad family joke,
soon I started omitting your cutlery
whenever I set the table.
After your cuff links, pipe, Old Spice, whatever
else I might touch, in dusting,
I had to wash my seven-year-old hands raw
turning over and over the sudsless soap.
Sometimes Mom would ask why,
complain about my uneven cleaning.
Once stuck on a Saturday in the Lindenhurst depot,
dense smell of dirty laundry, hanging radium heavy,
200-pound bags dumped from delivery trucks,
piled up to the garage ceiling, high as a hangar,
I scrubbed the bathroom,
starting with the sink, old filth
so beard-gray thick, I had to cut it
with a putty knife,
fairy-dusting Comet over everything
I went up the teal-tiled walls,
grimed with piss and spit and smeary shit,
annoying you, as I kept asking for more and more towels
working myself into a lather
until I got to the toilet Mom told me not to touch,
but I scoured on, real trooper
staining my pale saffron dress,
its sagging sash dripping from the bucket,
its eyelet hem already sullied
with what I did,
with what you did.
You said nothing, either way.