From Tony Hoagland’s new book

There is nothing to say about this poem–just buy the book.

The Age of Iron

When I see an ironing board
folded in the closet of a motel room,
and the iron resting like a sledgehammer on the shelf above,

I think of the Age of Iron
and my mother standing in the kitchen,
folding clothes on the green table,
a bottle if spray starch at her elbow, not even the radio on—

For some reason the memory always
has a faint aroma of brimstone,
for she did not like to iron the clothes
yet somehow had found herself

condemned to this particular hell
where her job was tucking her chin against her chest
to hold a sheet in place as she folded it twice
and then twice more

over and over into eternity.
I remember her looking down
at the flat steel surface of the iron
like an unenchanted mirror,

then spitting to ensure that it was hot,
how in that act she expressed
the essence of her philosophy;

and how one afternoon in the middle of July
she raised the iron
and pressed it firmly against
the skin of her left arm
where it hissed against the tissue
with the sizzle-sound
of bacon frying in a pan.

And that was the greatest speech that I would ever hear
made by a master rhetorician
in protest of the thousand things
that can’t be named

while at the same time it was the breakthrough performance
of an insane but brilliant actress,
who had staged her own kidnapping,

and was in this unique manner
holding herself ransom,
sending a photo of herself

to The New York Times, utterly
confident of its immediate publication
under a boldface

twenty-point headline
that would read: Angry
Wife, Woman, and Mother,

Still Not Free, Burns.

Tony Hoagland, from Recent Changes in the Vernacular, Tres Chicas Press.


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