IN A FAR OFF CORNER
In a far off corner of a wide wide world
lies the circumstance that faces another.
A circumstance so abject that life
never really begins. And then it
dies quietly, announced by
an unheard whisper.
And from our corner of this world,
safe and secure under bejeweled roofs,
we pay our cursory glance of sympathy.
We forget that all corners connect, and
that the experience of each life lives
within us all. Albeit in disguise.
And we miss the possibility hidden
in the circumstance of another.
The possibility that compassion might soften
the edges of our own uneven experience,
and that the simple act of togetherness
might liberate our disheartened lives.
There are no far off corners
in this wide wide world.
And there are no separate lives.
I ride Greyhound
because it’s like being in a John Steinbeck novel. Next best thing is the laundromat. That’s where all people who would be on the bus if they had the money hang out. This is my crowd. Tonight there are cleaning people appalled at the stupidity of anyone who would put powder detergent into the clearly marked LIQUID ONLY slot. The couple by the vending machine are fondling each other. You’d think the orange walls and fluorescent lights would dampen that energy but it doesn’t seem to. It’s a singles scene here on Saturday nights. I confide to the fellow next to me that I suspect I am being taken in by the triple loader, maybe it doesn’t hold any more than the regular machines but I’m paying an extra fifty cents. I tell him this meaningfully holding handfuls of underwear. He claims the triple loader gives a better wash. I don’t ask why, just cruise over to the pop machine, aware that my selection may provide a subtle clue. I choose Wild Berry, head back to my clothes.
I Ride Greyhound by Ellie Schoenfeld
a coin laudro-mat
I feel blessed to be able to wash my clothes.
towels and unmentionables.
a small bag.
I walk into the familiar,
yet for a while now,
I remember the years of this in my life
my most missed luxury in all of life
was washing and drying clothes
So hard this part of life became.
So challenging and humbling.
$4.50 to wash
a quarter for 5 minutes to dry.
I struggle to adjust.
I hadn’t planned on this.
I don’t look the part today.
I have to ask questions to reacquaint myself with this system.
Here in the midst of
hard working-and-living men,
tired mothers and crying babies,
the immigrants and struggling,
These to whom I belong.
those who make their living
through making clean the dirty.
I stand and watch the circle go round
Hot tears stinging my eyes
Those tough-as-nails days.
Plunged from luxury to poverty
in a heartbeat-break of life.
So soon we forget…
So quickly we remember…
I watch the water rise –
I didn’t put in enough soap.
There are no suds.
I pray that hot water I chose
for those 2 extra, hard-earned quarters,
will do it’s work
and my clothes will smell good.
I will not prolong my stay –
or use more of my precious coins.
I pray each of our guardian-laundry angels
will bless each of us
doing laundry every day
in all types of conditions.
This would be pure luxury in parts of this world.
I pray for grace.
I pray to remember.
I pray to be grace.
I pray to be The Words of God to heal the broken.
I pray for grace.
I pray for the crying baby,
and the tired man,
whose current outfit could use a good washing itself.
I pray for the immigrant family,
quietly folding together,
speaking Spanish in hushed voices.
I pray for the fabulous girl at the dryers,
with the faux Burberry scarf flung jauntily over her shoulder,
I hope to carry myself with such flair and dignity.
We are all here –
Bearing the high cost,
of poverty in our society.
I pray as quiet tears run.
I stand in my washer’s corner hoping nobody sees my memories.
I blow my over-productive nose.
and give thanks for all things.
Especially that I have known these struggles.
That I know how this feels.
That I am part of this humanity.
I am one with all God’s created people.
All seeking clean clothes,
The crying baby starts to laugh
I smile as well.
God is always good
I am always blessed –
If I am willing to see the blessings –
even if it takes years and years to see them.