Bleached white handkerchiefs,
fresh from the dryer, warm like toast,
are piled in the green laundry basket
sitting on the red chair
next to the ironing board beside the couch.
You spread each one carefully
as if measuring linen bandages
for soldiers wounded in the war
from which your brother never returned.
The iron’s hot metal advances
across waves of wrinkles,
while you frown in concentration
at each imperfection in your life.
Starched and folded, the handkerchiefs
slowly stack up on the sideboard
like sandwiches for guests
who are quite late.
Walking through the room, my father
takes one, palms it into his back pocket, let’s his
suit coat fall back over it, picks
up his briefcase and walks out to the car.
You watch him drive away.
Setting the iron upright,
a steaming, blunt little rocket,
always prepared for landing,
you take the folded stack in your hands,
undecided, then toss them all into
the green laundry basket sitting on the red chair
next to the ironing board by the couch.
You smooth your dress,
sit down with your eyes closed,
and listen to the kitchen clock,
down the hall and around the corner, ticking
and ticking and ticking.