I’m wrapping up my two-month summer roadtrip, my buh-bye to the previous slipping-and-sliding year (no, not that fun slip-n-slide) in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’ve pulled myself away from the beach, past the ice cream shacks and eh-alright BBQ joints, to finally do some laundry, as I’ve ran out of tank tops. I’ve packed my washers and a lady has maneuvered a shopping cart into the laundry mat, this lady wearing the world’s coolest pants, a mix between denim overalls, a handkerchief, and grandma’s quilt. She gives me laundry soap powder, says she thought I could use it. A man, who kind of looks like he would be friends with my dad, keeps popping his eyes out at me, trying to read the cover of my book, eyeing my case of beer. And I spy right back, at his beach t-shirt (you know the difference between wearing the t-shirt for the beach you’re at vs. wearing a t-shirt for something else), at his bald eagle tattoo, at the way he says four words to his wife, reading a romance novel, the hour we share the space. The four of us deal with the machines, the clothes, and the soap, rotating our views between each other and our machines and some text–my book, the awaiting fabric softener box, the instructions we all know on the coin machine, a story about some other broad-shouldered guy on some other beach, each of us peering into each other’s world, into other worlds, out of our own.
That’s how it is reading Every Laundromat In The World by Mel Bosworth, the newest beauty from Safety Third Enterprises. These poems are tiny slices of life, no more than peering, no more than itty-bitty in their brevity, but those moments show something bigger cupped in the pages. And reading those words, I’m back at that off-shore laundromat, the not-mine machines having stopped their spinnings, all clean now. I see these poems inside there, the stories inside the pink bra, the places these other people have been wrinkling on a t-shirt with each stopped second. In these short poems, Bosworth bounces between narrative details and weird fortune cookie wisdom, unfolding bits about “the man” and “the woman,” showcasing the beautiful in the pieces–isolated, given, allowed to be seen.
Where so much of the poems I’m reading and writing and honestly connecting with unfurl frantically, can’t wait to tell me what something means or how it feels, these poems are stark and startling because they need none of that; they exist. There’s “Mending,” where we learn of a man who sells his convenience store to buy another one further away, but what pops, what matters, what makes this matter, is that ending, a final lone-wolf line, shining back at that title, revealing the moment for this whole mess as “when his wife leaves him.”
Or “Blind, Breathing”:
They both cried
but it didn’t stop them from leaving it
behind the dumpster. She said
the wind was warm.
it liked that.
The crisp poem illuminates what makes Bosworth’s style so precise, so massive, so complete; there is nothing more to say about this leaving behind, this cruel (for all parties) evening, that wasn’t already said.
They’re the bare essentials; they perform spectacularly, a single perfect cartwheel you could never imagine completing yourself, how glad you were to stand there in the grass, but also quite shaken to see the body move over the grass, otherworldly, to see the grass alive in the sun. The way “Mending” keeps that piece of information of the wife’s leaving curled in its fist until the end, the way “Blind, Breathing” ends with that heavy simplicity, the power in the combo of poetic awareness and humorous reflection of “Truth #45” when it says simply, “It’s always funnier when you/masturbate with your mouth//open.”
And not to keep kicking at a theme of the book galloping in the goodness pasture, but this chapbook seriously shines as a whole, when all those slices come together, articles of clothing in a wardrobe. Each piece on its hanger, the closet door shut, the book closed, finished, I find myself like the man in “Photograph From Five Years Ago,” each time, the whole time, forever in recollection of Mel Bosworth’s fine work, with my head all out-of-whack as if I’ve “seen or heard something/surprising or revolting.” It’s hard to tell which.