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Sport 42: 2014

Ironing shirts

page 222

Ironing shirts

A friend, paying for hospitality once
ironed a great quantity of business shirts
of the husband of the hostess.

Over the back of the dining room chairs they hung
stripes and plain, finest Egyptian cotton
until the room was full of arms

and necks: she left the fronts unbuttoned.
The scent of ironing outdid the bowls of flowers
on table and dresser and a bowl of potpourri

while I, watching, marvelled at
a sort of swimming with the iron
a familiarity as it raced

along a sleeve or down a placket
having first flattened the seams
and done the collar, yoke and cuffs

of different styles and depth. It seemed
an intimacy with a man greater than
a diary or appointment book. Thin stripes

or wider, one was pink, washed out
like blood, rinsed and re-rinsed until
it barely blushed, though still stood out

among the white shirts for a week.
Finally the iron was set at ease. Folding began.
The dry air resumed its accommodating damp

the chairs were cleared as if from cloaks
and six flat shirts on either hand
were taken off to rest on shelves.