Laundromat by Seowon (Angela) Lee

Illustration by Iona Tan

Illustration by Iona Tan

When the world should’ve been an oyster,
she worked at a laundromat & dry cleaners
washing delicates and designer coats,
ironing folds from a husband’s dress shirt
when dearest, dangsin*, is across water
is a cross ocean?

Fluency, truancy, delicacy sewn into hems
for memorization, or was it
alteration. Made in Not America but not
(store bought, ready made)
somewhere sounds stitched to English letters
scrubbed names strung on a line to dry
snipped for easy pronunciation.

A story.
Grandmother laughs at how
a party dress of loose crystal beads went
rolling, cascading, cried like mermaid pearls,
in the blue wash of revolving, spinning.
All night she reattached one by one,
hand sewing, lip syncing, we learn the craft
for phone calls that cost more than minimum wage.

The price of
little rolling tides that turn and turn until
all are alluring, lulling white, laundered and
sterilized by ultra Tide. She sits
behind the counter, legs swaying, tracing her mother’s stitches on
a threadbare handkerchief scented by hibiscus and brine.

Dry-clean only shifts of chiffon, lace, silk
(treat with caution) these shells
mend to redolence, mend new.
But does she have none of these tags
wash with warm water,
handle with care.

*something to call husband in Korean, but also love and ‘you’

Seowon (Angela) Lee is a freshman in Columbia University who will probably major in some combination of Creative Writing and English because she is indecisive and abhors math. Her work has been published in the Jet Fuel Review and the Claremont Review as well as in her high school literary magazine The Wit, which has won the National Press Association award. Instagram | Facebook