I’ve done his shirts. Now I’m on the hankies.
I learnt on these. My mother thought I couldn’t harm
the plain white squares. He had plenty anyway.
First you flatten out and heat away the creases,
then fold in half, do both sides, fold again,
ending with a steaming, neatly cornered wedge.
Clean hankies conjure up his optimistic mornings:
watering the plants before setting off for work
humming with vitality, redolent of soap.
Now there’s not much sense in being optimistic.
All that’s left to hope for – a pain-free, sudden end.
In the meantime I continue ironing the hankies,
pressing all my love into worn white cotton.
©Virginia Rounding, 1994
First published in Understanding 6, 1996