Coin Laundry

by Chloé Firetto-Toomey

Boxed rows of black drums,
vortexes, perfectly contained—proof
you can force a circle into a square.

I am satisfied, stuffing five machines
instead of just one,
saving time—bending the continuum.

I’m reading in the corner nested in the Y of wall and window
when Mum calls. Her voice bright as a bleached shirt,
as high-noon across the Atlantic with no land in sight.

She talks fast, her words quick birds, warblers,
trying to quell my nerves, soften my edges
but longing is a hardened sphere.

My therapist said anger masks sadness.
I hold the phone from my ear—her voice thins
and when we hang up, I want to hide

within those spinning black drums
or in the thin stitched lines of this poem. Above the dryers,
a lady in a Spanish soap opera pretends to cry.

Two fast kids chase each other, jolt the dry-cleaning counter,
their sneakers squeak the tiles and their mother doesn’t care.
The thing I know about coin laundries is that nobody cares

if I weep to the humming machines—black mirrors or hurricane eyes—
nobody cares if I fold all my clothes into seven rubbish bags,
nobody cares if I write:

Longing is an image of her at the kitchen table in the oven’s light.

Chloé Firetto-Toomey is a British-American poet and essayist living in Miami Beach, FL. She has an MFA degree from Florida International University , where she served as Poetry Editor for Gulf Stream Magazine and where she taught Introduction to Creative Writing and Creative Nonfiction. She currently serves as an Author Assistant at InnerLasting Lit Arts. A two-time finalist in Tupelo Quarterly's Prose Open Contest and a finalist in Diagram's chapbook contest, she won the 2017 Christopher F. Kelly Award for Poetry and the 2020 Scotti Merril Award for Poetry. Her most recent chapbook of poems, Little Cauliflower, was published in 2019 by Dancing Girl Press.