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American Life in Poetry: ‘Laundress’

By Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

One thing I’ve tried to do with this column is to show off poets who do indeed write about contemporary American life, and who see deep into the ordinary parts of it. Here’s a fine poem by Heid Erdrich, who lives in Minnesota, about doing the laundry. It’s from her book “Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media,” published by Michigan State University Press.

Laundress

Given over to love,

she un-balls the socks,

lets fall debris of days,

leaf litter, sand grain,

slub of some sticky substance,

picks it all for the sake

of the stainless tub

of the gleaming new front loader.

Given over to love long ago, when her own

exasperated moan bounced off

the quaint speckled enamel

of the top loader

vowing: she’d do this always and well.

She fell in love then, she fell in line—

in a march of millions, you pair them,

two by two, you marry the socks.

Poem copyright 2017 by Heid E. Erdrich from Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media, Michigan State University Press, 2017. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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