“There Is a Small Window,” by Eric Odynocki

Dec 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Poetry

of opportunity when I can wash
my clothes in my building’s basement,
unhurried or without delay. Nine-to-fivers,
nodding off from routine, haunt

the laundry room in the evenings
while empty-nesters prefer the early AM
when they can peek over their crosswords
and grimace at how much softener I don’t

know to pour. Weekends are for mothers
and fathers finally on their day off and their
eyes ablaze between soccer practice
and pointe class. My chance chimes

at the latchkey hour, when some of us
teachers arrive home. So it’s an elevator ride
down nine floors side-by-side with a fellow tenant
whose name I never remember, both of us

avoiding eye contact as I hold a basket
with my intimates stuffed at the bottom.
Then it’s a shuffle down the mint green hallway
past the garbage compactor and its odor cocktail

of sweet and wrong. And, at last, as hoped,
the laundry room greets me with its russet quarry tiles,
fluorescent lights, and soullessness.
Carte Blanche on washing machine.

First dibs on industrial dryer. I feed
the front loader, let it lick and drink
the stray spittle of mole, the chalk dust,
the sweat. And when I tuck the last T-shirt

into the drawer and I chuck yet another
peerless sock into the rag bin, it’s two hours
after I started. And I wonder who expects
Sunday best every day. Why we go

through this cycle. Why our bodies
soil everything they touch.

Eric Odynocki is a first-generation American writer whose parents come from Mexico and Ukraine. Eric’s work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and has appeared in Jabberwock Review, The Brooklyn Review, PANK, and elsewhere. When not teaching Spanish or Italian, Eric is an MFA student at Stony Brook Southampton.

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