THE WHITE SHIRTS
My grandmother took in pressing to earn
something extra for her Christmas Club
and to pay my grandfather’s gambling debts.
On steamy summer mornings, I played jacks
sitting on her floor, her heavy iron
sputtering on the board above my head,
as she pressed the dress-shirts of the rich.
Desire for graceful things burnt its seal on me then.
The sleeves of the shirts hung down near my face,
perfumed with starch and linen water, warm
as they brushed my cheek. First among all
the crisp white disappointments of this world.
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