Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sparkle Laundry

The world likes to play its jokes on the mind,
Offering phenomena that become

Memorable merely seeming stable
When what's more cherished and feared disappears.

A good thirty years ago, Mark and Matt,
Two unusual young men we shall name

M East and M West, M2 and M1,
So as not to embarrass living ghosts,

Used to make a minor social event
Of schlepping their clothes to the laundromat

Down the brown ice sidewalks of Missoula
Once a week in winter, sacks on their backs,

M2 helping M1 with treacherous
Passages, M1 always promising

To pay for M2's frozen yogurt cone
Once they got inside. That was the gimmick

Of that near-campus laundry in those days,
The eighties: offering frozen yogurt

With innumerable candy toppings
At a bar beside the washing machines,

And MTV played continuously
From several large cathode-tube TVs

Hanging strategically from the ceiling.
It made sense at the time. Yogurt was thought

Magically better for you than ice cream.
MTV was what all the shrewd kids watched,

Tribes dismissing their least-favorite genres
Of pop while waiting for a haloed band

To drop a new sensation. And laundry
Ran the needy gamut of the campus,

From undergrads in dorms without washers
To hippy kids and grad students bereft

Of the suburban maternal support
Systems most of them had been raised within.

M2 could have done his laundry at home.
But his well-off mother, professor's wife,

Lawyer's wife, was a vaporous addict
Hooked on nasal inhalants who haunted

Their handsome brick home near the old campus
And never gave her son a moment's peace.

He himself had become notorious,
Tall, thin young man with Andy Warhol hair

Wearing black leather pants to emulate
His hip hero, the late Jim Morrison,

Not that anyone but him thought it cool
For a long, scrawny dude to dress in black

And greet everyone with "Hey, groovy cat!"
And peruse Loompanics magazines.

M1 didn't mind. He was alien
In each environment he occupied,

A crooked little hairball of a man.
He was happy to have the company.

They discussed the meaning of everything,
Including time, yogurt, and MTV,

Then hauled their canvas sacks of clothes back home,
M1's rented room, M2's dark brick house.

Thirty odd years on, everything is gone
But Sparkle Laundry, offering wifi.

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