Ironing Their Clothes by Julia Alvarez


Ironing Their Clothes by Julia Alvarez
With a hot glide up, then down, his shirts, I ironed out my father’s back, cramped
and worried with work. I stroked the yoke, and breast pocket, collar and cuffs,
until the rumpled heap relaxed into the shape of my father’s broad chest, the shoulders
shrugged off the world, the collapsed arms spread for a
hug. And if there’d been a face above the buttondown
neck, I would have pressed the forehead out, I would
have made a boy again out of that tired man! If I clung to her skirt as she sorted the
wash or put out a line, my mother frowned,
a crease down each side of her mouth. This is no time for love! But here
I could linger over her wrinkled bedjacket, kiss at the damp puckers of her wrists
with the hot tip. Here I caressed complications of darts, scallops, ties, pleats which made
her outfits test of the patience of my passion. Here I could lay my dreaming iron on her lap
The smell of baked cotton rose from the board and blew with a breeze out the window
to a family wardrobe drying on the clothesline, all needing a touch of my iron. Here I could
tickle the underarms of my big sister’s petticoat
or secretly pat the backside of her pyjamas. For she too would have warned me not to muss
her fresh blouses, starched jumpers, and smocks, All that my careful hand had ironed out,
forced to express my excess love on cloth.

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