Dry Cleaning

Moving to a new city, there are several things that I enjoy, looking for good markets, where to find odd spices, specialty foods, or good tofu, and making connections with local mom and pop stores. Amongst other necessities like finding a doctor, a hairdresser, a dentist, I was looking for a place to dry clean my coat. I had found one just up the street towards the nearest subway station, across the street from the tofu store.


having left my red coat
at a small dilapidated dry cleaning store
stepping into a space and smell of familiar times
from two generations ago

first asking to see the store hours
then to trust her with my coat
even if i knew it
will be chemicals that will remove
the traces of chocolate

the petite face defined into quadrants
by smile wrinkles
slightly stooped like
many from that time

she would step down
from the living quarters
from behind the noren
and peer out with a smile

i left the coat during that
hot spell in late may
and it is already august i thought
i must not forget this saturday
so i take my parasol and venture out
into the heat already
at eight in the morning

a piece of paper on
the glass sliding door
i quicken to see if they are
on vacation
but it is a notice of the store

instead of the lady
a man her age agile and petit
comes out from behind to ask
how he may help me

i look for my dry cleaning ticket
i find none but there is only one red coat
as he hoists the coat from the high hanger

i mention you are closing the store,
it is time to retire ?
and then without any change in tone
nor pace
nor a change in expression
he says
my wife passed away last monday, just like that
and this is why we will close the store

his ease of release
was not my calm
i wanted to reach out
but the words muffled in the remaining mass
of shirts and coats wrapped in plastic
in the dimness of the fluorescent light

i receive the coat
and bow before stepping out into
the sound of cicadas

the sound of cicadas
with whom shall i share this sadness
of losing someone that i barely knew




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