By Dave Smith b. 1942 Dave Smith
At the drycleaners I stand in line, my feet
shuffling weight from side to side,
impatience all over me while the woman,
light brown, with her Creole story drones on.
In New Orleans none would notice.
She’s exotic in Baltimore, a dawn bird
everything hears. Even the clerk
leans into her tale, clucking softly. When
people behind me cough, she won’t be
rushed. She’s got her whole story to go.
Soon there’s a man she never married,
her mother opposed, far away still, and he
went into a bar, wrong place, wrong color,
wrong words, maybe, a good man.
He’ll never come away of there, not comin’
home, geraniums on the back porch,
and not replace the bad tire her Honda has,
who could always be telling her what time
does in the kitchen if she stand half
naked letting his dog go on out. So
let me pay you for him, give you money
because you is nice and I remember,
her nearly singing voice sighs. The sleeved
pants, two shirts hang on the brass ring, all
finished, unclaimed, the stiffened
stains gone away. The perfectly starched
cloth a redemption so beautiful
it might be the linen of royalty, but small
for a man two of us will think of as
sleep scuffs house walls like tide under a boat.
How nice they are, these women doing
the little one person can for another
which is, in the end, a wash
of memorable words that leave you standing.

Source: Poetry (April 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2011
 Dave  Smith


Poet, novelist, critic, and editor Dave Smith was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. The first member of his family to graduate from college, Smith received a BA from the University of Virginia, an MA from Southern Illinois University, and a PhD from Ohio University. Smith has published more than a dozen volumes of poetry, including Little Boats, Unsalvaged: Poems 1992–2004 and The Wick of Memory: New and Selected Poems, 1970–2000, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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