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American Life in Poetry No. 486

U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Poetry has room for everything and everybody, for every subject and object. Here’s a poem by Sharon Chmielarz, a Minnesota poet, on a subject I’ve never seen written about. And poetry, and American Life in Poetry in particular, now welcomes pillow cleaners!

The Pillow Cleaners Come to Town

and turn the senior citizen center into an automated assembly line.

Goodbye, dross of long winter nights. Farewell, old skin cells and reek:

what couldn’t come clean on a clothesline. Bundles of pillows, caroming, bouncing,

sloshing along, even as more mistresses of pillows hurry through the door,

hugging stained sacks of feathers like thoughts kept well past prime.

Sure, they should’ve been thrown out long ago but — we paid so dearly for them.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Sharon Chmielarz from her most recent book of poems, Love from the Yellowstone Trail, North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Sharon Chmielarz and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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