Excerpts from “Leaving La Lavandería”

Leaving La Lavandería (I)

the drop ceilings are higher than 
remembered and textured 
like seashells

at the linoleum tables too low 
to closet sleepwalking 
superintendence is chronic

a consoling discomfort in folding
your arms below your chest
pressing the small of your back

against a rigid beige 
primary color and finish 
of Rent-A-Center specials

or a clinic sopping up 
the hospital’s overflow
imagine each washer’s porthole 

pulls a tape along its loop
noise pollution worships 
an evening raga

all this change-making
a quarter for each sticky palm
who knows which pejorative

the gumball machine 
will spigot into your bag
where the proprietors have wiped out 

one tagger’s premature epitaph 
three more have scored
legitimate threats to tinting

Leaving La Lavandería (III)

The kindly old paletero
Smuggles ashtrays and Tijuana
Bibles past the canine officers
Dipping their snouts in the detergent

Wild parakeets crow a daily
Podcast on the coming eviction
Crisis from the monopalm
Serving bars to the topper-offers 

Rodeo clowns peer over 
Their bifocals as the numbered 
Instructions buck another ranchera and 
Smile pockets blister with gore

Under international copyright 
Agreements a common North American 
Scheme agitates the anonymity of a hand
Dumped above the fill line of a tub 

Frozen custard is too elegant
For the prewash compartment
Lint silkscreens a handy firestarter
For low crocks of arroz con leche 

Pork dressers in their bouffant-style 
Snoods flounce armchairs fresh out of 
The dryer’s rigged tumble but a serape’s fringe 
Won’t see the other side of hypothermia

Leaving La Lavandería (X)

opinionated garments need
not be folded 

a patrolman’s mask
blackly breathable
printed with the
white directive
scimitar shape of a 
shit-eating grin
with all the camp
tee-shirt long as 
a nightgown

commemorative hoodie
lifted from a gift shop in Roswell
New Mexico in the back
you can smell the plaque 
of decades past colligating
like hard water spots on the drop
ceiling’s gypsum the owner
keeps an old aquarium stocked with desert 
rocks under bulbs tripping on Grape 
Fanta they writhe in psychedelic pain
I get it I 
get it I get it
the grays are slimy experimentalists
their seeing and believing gibbous 
almonds of voltaic green

nectarine-ish culottes
pillowcases’ imitation satin
washcloths stretched 
as far as scrubs at warp speed
peasant tunic pulled nearly 
see-through over a third
trimester bombshell
summer shorts Fiskars-ed
out of Goldfinger kink

(white uniforms have been known 
to cause eye strain 
and headache green 
reduces eye strain
is a calming color associated 
with peace and healing in fact
green has been scientifically shown to lower 
blood pressure it’s also the color most 
used on hospital walls)

infinity scarves
cute cozy relevant
official knit
of Alan Flusser pocket squares
pure herringbone that wants
to hide a dipsomaniacal bulge but fails

tumble that and be 
the hanger let the dangling 
blow kisses and stab 
at drying in the dark

Leaving La Lavandería (XII)

each washing machine
is a darkroom each mateless
sock a baby picture its former
owner cannot bear to look at any longer

you see some semblance of your
inexperience caught unaware
in the garment’s dingy sagging 
because I say 
so but wait wait I want 
to do more justice to that dinginess

to come back to it before we’ve even
put it behind us as 
though it were common litter the battery 
of chemical cycles that 
has made this housing 
for one of our body’s most 
vulnerable flexures drab 
and frayed is a kind
of light itself closed off
in a myrrh-like amber or 
some other hue good 
at dodging

you see by which I mean
you can tell I’ve never
really bent my eye
to a camera my metaphors 
all come from books not lived 
life my remonstrating myself over
this fact keeps me 
reading each washing machine
is a decapitated dream 

in the centerless city 
thus without peripheries
of imitation wicker bushels 
and waffled hampers brimming with old 
photographs every self demonically
blurry or overcoated 
in sharp wool holding a 
smile like a pet 
rabbit is an idea 
you can enter and harrow from 
the hell automatons submit to but only

in this one I am holding the newborn
made to appear more porcelain than 
a doll in this one I am the hammy elevator 
operator in this one the irreal flash
of the button just bumped 
by a hip and in 
this one I am the christening gown
being rocked by a cradle
rougher than the soles 
of steps retracing steps
through the shop 
floor’s cinders and iron filings

Leaving La Lavandería (XIII)

it’s a distressing mural
whose wetness is perpetual
whose cycles are life-sized and ape
some sequence of sequences running 

behind the effort left in biology 
weekends I keep waiting 
for this chore to be more Calvinist
a waiting to which I’ll no doubt 

lose my wherewithal still 
in this letup my amnesia is going nowhere
amnesia of harvest gold countertops
amnesia of a baby brother’s stitched upper lip 

amnesia of Newhall afternoons half-burned 
by eucalyptus and the Santa Anas
amnesia of seminars in theory
dogs snuffling at every leg under the table

amnesia of interrogation
amnesia of incommensurate cant
amnesia of commandeering enough space
to bring the sleeves in and collar the hem

imagine but do not pretend
these brimful automatons all mouth
these dismal prodigies 
represent the sole order we’ve ever known

and so that cadet blue neatness becomes 
regimented tyrannical
without statehood yet compatible 
with all allegiances

By Joe Milazzo