Fixing the Dryer
–Jack Lowery (1929-2006)
Those days, the scene looked like disaster:
you bent over the dryer’s gut-spilled bolts,
its cracked V-belt and graphite stains
spread out on the flaking basement floor,
habitat of silverfish and sow-bug,
laundry baskets shoved aside, filtered stubs
piled in Folger’s cans, blue smoke curling
into the general haze. You’d painted
the damp block walls a redundant gray, and
heavy fluorescents swung from dirty joists
above you, in your ratty undershirt
and Sunday stubble, firing off bursts
of bitterness, your knuckles bloodied.
Those damned parts that would never
line up, your second-hand wrenches,
the neighbors with their wrinkle-free
lives: the enemy, on every hand.
I was busy at my pint-sized workbench,
behind the mummified arms
of the old furnace, gluing together
a styrene model of the Arizona,
cotton smoke pouring from its bow
which hadn’t exploded yet but would,
I’d learned, from the boys down the block.
You’d been too young to go, and so
instead had saved scrap iron, copper,
and every steel wartime penny.
Holding on: it was in your blood like
a stubborn song, even while Mom
cold-shouldered you from the kitchen,
ignoring your banged-up victories.
She’d married the wrong type of boy.
You swore, not quite under your
coffee breath, and kept your head down,
while I painted in an acetone haze…
Since Mom remembers less each week,
those old battles are gone,
along with the grudging armistice
you patched together toward the end.
Trying for a laugh, this afternoon
I told her how I’d felt compelled
to open up my old Maytag,
its insides kettle-drumming,
and got it fixed, and heard your voice.
She just shot back her stock reply:
Why would you want to do that?
Later, I’ll try to call you up again—
come share this peace and quiet
as I switch the dryer on
and it tumbles a load of thin air.
Scott Lowery is a poet, musician and retired educator who is relocating from the Driftless Zone of southeastern Minnesota, magnetically pulled toward his young grandchildren in Milwaukee. Lowery’s collection Empty-handed (2013) won the Emergence Poetry Chapbook Award from Red Dragonfly Press, and recent work appears in Prairie Schooner, RockPaperPoem, and Briar Cliff Review. Samples from his workshops with young poets can be found at scottloweryblog.wordpress.com.