Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Poem- Folding Clothes

I wrote a new poem last and thought I'd share it.  It was a quiet afternoon and I had chores to do. Kat was out with Tasha.  So I sat down to fold.  I could hear a neighbor working on something with a hammer.  There was someone else listening to a Spanish pop-song on a radio.  Everything felt sort of pleasantly peaceful and not-too-close.  I like some of Emily Dickinson's poems, where she's engaged in trivial, day to day activities and observations.  I like that sort of attentiveness.  I like to imagine someone far away or in the future reading it and wondering "What was daily life like in the early 21st century in the US?  Were they just like us?"  I've written a poem about cooking muffins before, to give an example, and have often thought a sort of Ode to the Ladle would be fun and informative to write.  Anyways, here's this one.

Folding Clothes

I like folding clothes
when the house is quiet
and the windows open.

I tuck the pockets in first, for the pants.
Then I fold them in quarters, tugging at the seams.
The towels I fold in thirds
like my father taught me,
the shorts in half .  The bras
I fold cup into cup, with the straps bundled inside
like a bowl of noodles.  The socks—
I separate them and match at the end, like my mother.

I match
 seam to seam.
I tuck the arms in.
I drape them properly on my lap.
I fold them in half, then half again,
            so they’ll fit in the drawers.
I pull the folds tight, and I place them in their pile.

You can get into a rhythm,

if you’re careful and quiet,
            much like the drapes,
                                                billowing and receding,
that sigh now
against the wood like waves.



  1. Nice poem, Stephen! You make folding clothes seem so relaxing. Love the line about the bra- ...like a bowl of noodles. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some folding to do.

  2. Each line conveys the zen-like rhythms of quiet breathing ... together they form an image of monks sweeping courtyards of dust or snow ...

  3. Yes, yes. That's the goal anyways. :) Simple, straight forward, and attentive. Without adornment.

    My wife told me I should cut the last section with the drapes, that they're too grandiose and don't fit with that simple aesthetic of the other lines... but I'm unsure. I like the sort of "opening up" of the poem to other things there. That sensory input that you can receive so much easier when you're quiet and attentive. I found the two elements of the poem linked sort of "experientially", but less so aesthetically. Any opinions on it? I'm open to input.

  4. The earth also breathes ... The Greeks and Romans had this idea, in Seneca's "Natural Questions" there is a chapter devoted to the wind ... The Romantics have their lyres and Aeolian harps, Thoreau has his storms, Dickinson is a sun worshipper ... In your poem, you find this ancient harmony right away: "the window is open" ... The room breathes as you breathe ...

    In my Gauze Curtains painting, I relied on a reading of Canto V, in which Pound blends elements of Western and Chinese thinking about the wind: "This wind is held in gauze curtains…No wind is the king’s"... I think you have done much the same here ...

  5. I was quoting from memory and should have said Canto IV, so I'll correct that here ... Also, I'll add that Canto CXX, generally taken to be the final canto, returns to the image of the wind: "I have tried to write Paradise / Do not move / Let the wind speak / that is paradise" etc...