A Japanese woman separates her husband’s dirty clothes
from the rest of the family’s with a long chopstick
and flicks them into the washing machine.
Undershirt, cotton briefs, trousers—
all stinking of smoke and the perfume
of bar hostesses, who drape themselves
around salarymen, doped up like monkeys.
When she sees his clothes spinning
in the final rinse, she feels ecstatic.
Is this how an owl feels when it eats a snake?
In the next load their wash:
Kenji’s t-shirt with a paisley unicorn
Mariko’s school uniform
her own soy-splattered apron.
Listening to the slush of soil and sweat,
she feels the presence of river gods.
But who will erase the stains
on her white negligee?
She heaves the clean clothes into the dryer.
Yellows, reds, greens, blues—
a kaleidoscope of her days.
Soon she will fold them
into neat piles and tuck them
to their proper drawers.
How many owls can you fit inside
a cardboard box?
Will they look at each other
or just stare out at the darkness?
Margaret Chula has published fourteen collections of poetry including Firefly Lanterns: Twelve Years in Kyoto, which received an Honorable Mention in the Haiku Society of America 2021 Book Awards. Her poems explore the interconnectedness between our everyday lives and the natural world. A featured speaker and workshop leader at haiku conferences around the world, she has also served as president of the Tanka Society of America, Poet Laureate for Friends of Chamber Music, and is currently on the Advisory Board for the Center for Japanese Studies. She lives in Portland where she swims, gardens, hikes, and creates flower arrangements.