First Lessons in Laundry — Karen J. Weyant

Our washing machine started spewing
smoke like an old car engine, so my mother
dragged a five-year-old me
to Soaps & Suds on South Main, where
over a month ago, senile Mrs. Dell,
my old Sunday School teacher, said
she saw Jesus in the dryer steam.

That day, quarters rattling in her purse,
my mother taught me to measure soap
without spilling, to turn my father’s
pants’ pockets inside out and look
for pens or any spare change, to dab
white vinegar and water on spots
of mustard and dried mud stains.

Bored, with the laundry finally churning,
and my mother tucked away reading
magazines published six months ago
I looked for Jesus in the laundry carts
that hobbled on worn out wheels,
and in T-shirts, torn and listless,
forgotten in dusty table corners.

I imagined the beard, the kind eyes,
the smile, everything I always saw
in Bible story picture books.
But I only heard my mother curse
when she found untreated grass stains
or clumps of powdered soap
that didn’t dissolve in the wash.


Karen J. Weyant’s prose and poetry has appeared in Briar Cliff Review, Chautauqua, Copper Nickel, Harpur Palate, Mud Season Review, Rattle, River Styx, Storm Cellar, Tahoma Literary Review, and Whiskey Island. She is the author of two chapbooks, including Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt published by Main Street Rag. She is an Associate Professor of English at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York. In her spare time, she explores the Rust Belt regions of Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania.