(revised today, 4-3-2017)
So much depends on shaking out wrinkles
from this clean dry handkerchief, then
laying out this white cloth onto the ironing board.
As we lift the steam iron, so much depends on
Mother’s hand on mine, helping me
guide the point into the corner, then we
glide the iron, slowly, along the seam.
So much depends, depends
on Mother lifting away her hand,
her encouraging whisper, “Now,
turn the cloth over, press lightly —
that’s perfect.” So much depends on
setting the iron onto the metal pad.
Depends. Depends on lifting each corner
to fold the cloth over onto itself; with
Mother’s hand on mine, we
delicately iron down the fold line,
“Is that good?”
“Perfect.” I set down the iron.
So much depends on
folding this white rectangle in half again,
— as Mother lets me iron the crease —
pressing this folded cloth
to my nose — breathing in —
smells like Mother.
When you’re five years old, with
the whole world pressed and clean
so much depends on ironing handkerchiefs,
with Mother’s hand
on your hand, forever. Amen
(Thanks to W. C. Williams)