In marigold mornings

the coffee was kept hot

for any neighborhood woman

knocking at the front door


Arms crossed on front porches,

hair still dark and blond and red,

they laughed at everything,

their friendly talk and occasional breezes

stirring living room lace curtains


In the humidity of August,

these women washed and ironed

overflowing bushel baskets

of shirts and dress pants

for friends next door

or three doors down,

too sick that month to stand

over ironing boards


On late afternoons,

tight mouthed and silent,

they slid their irons hastily over creases

of the collars of their own men’s shirts,

slammed irons upright, slid irons again

down the sleeves and bibs and hems


As boys watching mothers

from kitchen chairs

we wondered if it was us,

not our fathers,

who had done something wrong