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The Art of the Fold

by Molly Peacock

A Linen Closet Ars Poetica


The Linen Closet Recruits

She practiced the art of the fold.

The washcloths were lined up like soldiers.

She was bold. And old. We did as we were told.

Lavender and mint. The towels were rolled.

A world behind the closet doors—

could we practice her art of the fold

on ourselves? Climb up the shelves and hold

our breaths and secretly endure there

until we were as old as she and bold

enough to live in her secret world

with the sweet odor of order?

As we practiced her art of the fold,

the sheets stacked up like ironed gold

ingots in the bank of order ensured

that we obeyed her. Terrified. She showed us

a way out of broken glass and fear and cold:

in simply stacking a safe life is ensured.

She practiced the bold, old art of the fold,

the art of inner army. I live as we were showed.


Linen Closet Ars Poetica

“The previous poet got drunk and peed

in your bed.” Did they change the mattress?

I didn’t ask the Festival Host, whose glee

morphed to obsequy as the mistress

of the Master Poet followed him from the room

next door. Down we went to breakfast.

“I know what you write about, Molly,”

(beneath the dim hotel restaurant lights

the past unfurled from our rayon napkins)

“your grandmother, like legions of poetkins,”

the Master said. Gram would have heaved that stinking

mattress down the hall, then folded his tongue

right back in his mouth like a boiled washcloth,

one of the phalanxes of soldier squares that clung

each to the other in her linen closet,

lavender and mint erasing any hint of a HIM.

The spirit of Gram sailed toward a bathroom

I shared in an empty dorm on a weekend

with a drunken poet at the next festival.

He pissed all over the toilet and tiles and

left a note: “I pee anywhere, signed, W.B. Yeats.”

Down the corridor a battered

utility closet door swung, half open:

there a dried, cratered, industrial sponge

lay gasping by a gallon of antiseptic wash

and a pair of rubber gloves I snatched:

poured bleach on the sponge,

sopped up his micturition, then lunged

toilet-ward to wring and rinse and wring

the pee and flush then run the tub while the Mind,

tough and rare and haunted and alive, folded

the verse-thing toward which I strive,

miming Gram’s orders: clean house, clean mind.



After Adelaide Crapsey

These be

Three silent things:

The fallen poets . . . the hour

After bleach . . . the stacked linen



Molly Peacock is a widely anthologized poet as well as a biographer. Her latest poetry collections are The Analyst: Poems and Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton and Company). She is co-founder of Poetry in Motion on New York City’s subways and series founder of The Best Canadian Poetry. Her latest projects are The Secret Poetry Room and The Timeless Project.


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