Discarded detergent boxes
fill trash cans.
Deserted dryers spin.
A lone college girl
in a white cotton shift
sits on a spindly table.
Holding a fat romance novel,
she swings her skinny legs.
I, too, was alone in the laundromat
the afternoon I met you.
The washing machine, jiggling
my empty laundry basket, juddered
through its final cycle. Just as I
looked out the dust-mottled window,
the sun blazed crimson and I
caught my first glimpse of you.
Though you abandoned me,
I think of you
as I watch our daughter twist
a strand of hair around her finger,
the freckles I used to count
barely visible. Now, as I sort our laundry,
she pays close attention to how
I separate light from dark.
An earlier version of “Laundry” appeared in The Tower Journal.
The Things I Take
From the hope chest
that still bears its cedary smell
and limited warranty
against moth damage,
I lift the hard-soled shoes
that housed my daughter’s first steps,
my mother’s string of cultured pearls,
the double wedding ring quilt
my grandmother made with cotton
harvested from her husband’s fields.
Separating my things from his,
I come across a once-white box.
Inside, resting on a cottony pillow,
lies a little silver ball
suspended from a thin chain
fastened to a heart-shaped pin.
I recall how I once admired these bejeweled charms—
knee knockers they were called—
as they dangled from older girls’ skirts.
Wanting what they had,
I eyed this one at a department store downtown.
The scarlet-haired saleslady,
exposing her wrinkled decolletage,
leaned across the counter.
“All the girls are wearing these now,”
she murmured, calculating my naïveté.
Attaching the knee knocker to the hem of my skirt,
I didn’t worry then about the irritating bob of the ball
as I hurried toward boys
in my high school’s hallways—
the up and down movements against my skin
throbbed and thrilled like a heartbeat.
Teresa Burns Murphy is the author of a novel, The Secret to Flying (TigerEye Publications). Her writing has been published in several literary journals, including Chicago Quarterly Review, Evening Street Review, Gargoyle Magazine, Literary Mama, The Literary Nest, The Opiate, The Penmen Review, Slippery Elm Literary Journal, and Stirring: A Literary Collection. She earned her MFA from George Mason University. Originally from Arkansas, she currently lives in Virginia. Visit her online here.
One thought on “Two Poems by Teresa Burns Murphy”
Lovely nostalgic bitter-sweet memories. Their images stayed with me long after reading.
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