Epistemology of Laundry

this week’s last load of laundry has me stealing
my son’s precious teenage time    I reenact the duty

of my father and what comes hammering back
are trips with him    pushing his cart of dirties down

the street    his southern charm waving or shaking
hands—: bus driver    mailman    neighbors get

countless invites to dinner or a Saturday bbq
my father’s good morning darlin’ clanks & pings

as quarters spill into the bona fide grip
of the present    my son’s hands show signs

he’s ready for the tedious work ahead as he storms
through pile after pile    then his precision when offering

assistance to a stranger    this chore becomes a lesson
for the two of us    this shared work turns and tumbles  

neatly folds—: a fond memory
 

Aubade with Edits

Both terrible storytellers, both bad
            With a punchline

Too, bad with a tale—short, long
            Or otherwise. Both, a little bit

Of college & plenty of experience—
            My parents. Their hands told

On them, & their cooking enough
            To keep mouths too busy

For small talk but not for lies, gold plated
            Lies. “Yes, still waiting

For Jordans or a Walkman,
            & please, no knock-offs.” “No mom,

Not the fakes.” “No, it’s not the same
            As the others, dad.”

O edits, O tweaks that transcend
            Trouble—you, neither fake

Nor fib even when half-awake in the new
            Light when parents revise stories or future

Visions so a paycheck opens
            Wider than my busy-begging

Mouth. Edits, not lies when dad dies
            Alone, broke to the bone. His version

Better than all the unforeseen costs
            Death accrues. Edits, unheard

Requests or complaints from mom’s eyes.
            Her last-month-tongue entangled,

Unable to spin or spend even a nickel’s
            Worth of lies. O Edits, sun’s up cutting

Sleep & dream with light & heat.
            I do nothing while narratives move

Along the ceiling: I’m ok. I’m ok.
            I’m ok. Soon I will tell the lie

To the mirror, to my shoes & car
            Keys, to my kiss-goodbye love,

To my needling co-workers at lunch
             Time, & the commute home again. 

A kiss hello & a kiss for baby, too
            Until back to dream

When my dead parents visit
            With new things to say.

Related Poems

Shahid Reads His Own Palm

I come from the cracked hands of men who used
           the smoldering ends of blunts to blow shotguns,

men who arranged their lives around the mystery
           of the moon breaking a street corner in half.

I come from "Swann Road" written in a child's
           slanted block letters across a playground fence,

the orange globe with black stripes in Bishop's left
           hand, untethered and rolling to the sideline,

a crowd openmouthed, waiting to see the end
           of the sweetest crossover in a Virginia state pen.

I come from Friday night's humid and musty air,
           Junk Yard Band cranking in a stolen Bonneville,

a tilted bottle of Wild Irish Rose against my lips
           and King Hedley's secret written in the lines of my palm.

I come from beneath a cloud of white smoke, a lit pipe
           and the way glass heats rocks into a piece of heaven,

from the weight of nothing in my palm,
           a bullet in an unfired snub-nosed revolver.

And every day the small muscles in my finger threaten to pull
           a trigger, slight and curved like my woman's eyelashes.