By: Cathryn Essinger
Odd, how the old shoelace holds
frayed now to a single thread,
a few strands still caught in the eyelet,
even though I have twice bought
replacements, once because prudence
seemed to demand it, and again because
I lost the pair bought for prudence.
I should remove the old lace, but it has
become a curiosity, like the T-shirt
Mother laundered until it was thin
as cheesecloth. When she pinned it
to the line, I could see right through
to another time, to a landscape gauzy
through cotton mesh, where the Iowa
cornfields lie smothered in summer heat.
And I know now that time can be
caught in the thinnest of nets.
On laundry days, Mother would lick
her finger before tapping the hot iron,
the sizzle on the plate almost as reassuring
as the odor of ironed cotton. Never mind,
time will make us laugh about the days
when she ironed and starched her sheets.
Today I remember the kittens who paced
the rim of the old washer, and when one
tumbles in, it is still her bare arm, soapy
and determined, that reaches in to grab
the kitten by the scruff of its neck. She holds
it up, half drowned, still dripping with suds,
and her words thread the memory into place.
Look at you…just look at you now!
I am the author of three books of poetry–A Desk in the Elephant House, from Texas Tech University Press, My Dog Does Not Read Plato, and What I Know About Innocence, from Main Street Rag. Her poems have appeared most recently in The Southern Review, The Antioch Review, and The Alaska Quarterly, among others.