After Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s “Hearing The Boatman’s Call in a Boston Laundromat”
When I was twenty-two, I washed blood-stained sheets
at the laundromat with the woman who helped create
the imperfections, kissed and embraced while dirty
sheets and underwear tumbled and tangled behind
the fogged-up glass door of the orange Speed Queen.
On Sunday evenings I took advantage of discounted
long-distance calls, stretched the twenty-foot telephone
cord to its yellow limit all the way down the hallway
through the kitchen across faded green linoleum
to the cracked concrete backsteps where I sat talking
for hours in winter twilight to friends who lived
thousands of miles away, watched the pink-streaked
western sky fade into darkness. I wrote twenty-page
letters with blue ink in cursive to my closest friends
and women I thought I loved, shared music and desires.
I walked to our local pub through the cemetery
singing The Smiths’ song as I passed through the gates,
drank sweaty pots of Carlton Draught, played pool with mates
at The Miller’s Arms. I delivered pizzas in a brown Ford
Cortina built twenty-two years earlier, saved money
for my first international flight. I spent sunsets
sitting on the rickety wooden jetty, listening
to black swans croon and cry as I imagined my future,
bare feet dangling above inscrutable lake water.
Irish-Australian poet Nathanael O’Reilly teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at Arlington. His ten collections include Selected Poems of Ned Kelly (Beir Bua Press, 2023), Dear Nostalgia (above/ground press, 2023), Boulevard (Beir Bua Press, 2021), (Un)belonging (Recent Work Press, 2020), BLUE (above/ground press, 2020) and Preparations for Departure (UWAP, 2017). His work appears in over one hundred journals and anthologies published in fourteen countries, including Another Chicago Magazine, Anthropocene, Cordite, The Elevation Review, Identity Theory, New World Writing Quarterly, Trasna, Westerly and Wisconsin Review. He is poetry editor for Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature.