When I was young
I ironed your hankies,
sometimes fifty at a time.
I’d pluck one out of the basket
and spray it with starch.
They were white with white designs
like snowflakes resting on snow.
I’d run the iron over the open square,
fold it in half, press in a crease,
fold it in half again, press.
Again, press,
until it was a small tidy envelope.
My future waited
like a friend I’d promised to meet
after my chores were done,
finished with hankies
and the time needed to tend to them
as if they were flowers in a garden.

When you got sick,
you held a hankie against your mouth,
trying to wipe away the dryness
and your embarrassment of it.
You left one here,
clutched and crumpled,
I found it in a tiny heap beside the couch.

A long time ago, people waved
Goodbye with hankies.
In photos, they crowd the deck of ships,
their hankies aloft
like a thousand flags of surrender.

Published in Rip Rap

Photo by Andy Fitzsimon on Unsplash