POETRY by Paul Griner

The sound of laundry
by Paul Griner

The sound of laundry

I keep looking at the rice-fields, glinting in the dark.
And the black water under the boats with their pools
like rainbowed oil on the pavement,
the track marks of the stars.
Perhaps a photograph is a sacred moment.

In secret you cleared a path,
brushing insects away from my face.
Outside the slow fact of our passing—
a question twines in the undergrowth:
Why not embark? A river runs behind me

I will throw a barrel into the river,
to pursue something odd or beautiful;
of course, it’s just a ditch for a pipeline
shaped and sharpened to interstellar blue,
sunset gilded, like plum canals. You, my lover, floated
patiently in my future like a red leaf
covering the heart and holding up the bed and roof and cooling sky.

I must change whatever it was I was
The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work.
Let us pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
everything ironed flat, pleated without a wrinkle:
The work of your sweet voice is without sin.
No one in this rusty world sees your hands,
how you never had to pump your own gas,
your slim torso clad in overalls, the hands
which placed each rivet.
My hands shelve themselves as magic fills
wrenches, screwdrivers, and shovels,
the clamp the brace the brush the square
lockers, metal detectors, steel doors,
the connecting rod and piston
wood planed by a chisel.

The day we met there were puddles.
We looked at one another in the dark, stood
close enough for me to smell the wool of your sweater
through the mist, without disturbing your dreams.

I told you I like to do things. I like to eat, and things like that,
and then of my dream, the one about
the black sleek heads of seals on Christmas Eve, how
a moonless night untethers its wild polka-dots,
how I pray for my younger sister
fussing through our house,
bolting her allegiance to the cruel and fastidious past.

But really the dream was a boat, and we its passengers.
We talked. You showed me your bare arms for the first time,
made a bowl of your hands like chipped porcelain inside of which, as religious as the
wind or scissors, a waiter in a clean apron knelt in the hot road.

As soon as you left I texted you: where are you now?
You began to run.
Later, your hair blonde, you said over a dish of
boiled-down beets and potatoes,
I always run when I hear three rings.
And after a run I shower and put myself back, alone,
because in a moment, sweating through my suit,
I alone am the air and the golden butter,
a sloop trailing its tiny wake across the carpet,
one more year in everybody’s life.

I'm remembering again, the day
I crossed the dirt road, entered
the hill road wet with rain
your suit wet like a coat of mail, how
every resort was a last resort, how
he held the dusty bottle out to you.

We passed a peeling mansion,
filled with familiar furniture and paintings
guarded by relics of Victorian elms
in daylight like fine powder, like dust.
But from a distance, at night, they seem to be
silos in ricefields, black and fossilized,
filled with the sweet sharp scents of
iron and winter mist, your mouth.

Paul Griner is the author of five books, most recently the novel Second Life and the story collection Hurry Please I Want to Know.