The Poetics of Laundry—A Garden Looking To Be Tamed


Doing the laundry is akin to reading The Iliad. There is the ritual of loading the washer. If not done regularly, the task of clean clothes becomes a burden. Such is the work of The Iliad. If a commitment to read daily is not made, your charge to push through to the end of it seems overwhelming.

A charge it is as the description of war takes up at least half of The Iliad. And no two battles are the same. “…every battle rises above the last in greatness, horror, and confusion.” (Alexander Pope)

Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus by Nikolai Ge
Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus by Nikolai Ge

In Oaxaca, my life is easy. I stuff my clothes in a bag and carry them up a cobbled pathway and drop them off at Lavanderia Burbumatic. Some days, it is loco at the laundry. The mound of clothes is a Mount Olympus.

I imagine the lavandera lifting her head from those mounds and crying “Oh dear brother, help us! Give us your horses—so I can reach Olympus….” (The Iliad, 5: 359-60, as translated by Robert Fagles.)

I don’t know how they keep it all straight yet week after week whatever I put in in that bag, I get back—unlike at home. There a sock-eating Cyclops that lives inside my washing machine. He must. How else could so many sock “singlets” go missing?

My comrades left me here in the Cyclops’ vast cave…It’s a house of blood and gory feasts, vast and dark inside. (The Aeneid, as translated by A. S. Kline) Oops! Mixing classics.

The Cyclops by Odilon Redon
The Cyclops by Odilon Redon

Burbumatic must be monster free as my socks, like vowels in Ionic diphthongs, are reunited and layered between the pants and leggings. Each piece of clothing is folded art, a cotton origami.

Budapest is in my future. I’m very excited. I will miss Oaxaca, my neighborhood laundry, yet soon I’ll be walking the streets of Buda looking for my local patyolat. Patyolat??

Spoiler alert! At last, when young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shown once more, …the Trojans buried Hector breaker of horses. (The Iliad, 24:926, 944, as translated by Robert Fagles.)

Achilles Slays Hector
Achilles Slays Hector

We’re reading The Iliad this May in the Global Reading Group, a virtual literary salon. Contact me to join @ And, it’s not all battles! We’re looking at food too!μαϊντανοσαλάτα-σύρου/

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