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
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.