Jane Poirier Hart
How to Iron a Shirt: Lessons for an Imagined Son
Start with the collar. Spread it on out on the board, underside up.
Press from points to the middle. Turn over. Now press the right side.
The collar will be smooth when it curves around your neck.
(Smooth under the hands of girls you haven’t yet met. A crisp,
buttoned collar can hide a rosary of crimson hickeys.)
Next, the yoke. Pull the shirt onto the tapered end of the board. Flatten.
Press one half. Turn. Press the other. Use the tip of the iron. Lots of steam.
(Someday you might be yoked to a job in dress shirts, a boss
who resents you, wants to plow you under. Or a woman.)
The cuffs are like the collar. First the wrong side, then the right.
(If you strike, as you were struck, no amount of pressing
your son or daughter or dog to your chest will remove the stain.)
Sleeves can be tricky. Take your time. Start at the top. Work
your way down. Chase wrinkles with the palms of your hands.
Then there’s the placket, all those buttons, their opposing holes…
Put your shirt on a hanger, now. Or put it on,— this shirt that closes
around your chest, a chest that will expand, sigh out sadness, writhe
under lovemaking, ricochet with laughter, rattle and gurgle, sputter
like steam as life draws you closer, oval of white, blue-hearted. (Until,
death unravels you,— fragile, wispy and waxen, an Icarus in reverse.)
Jane Poirier Hart is a poet and essayist. A finalist in the 2018 Elyse Wolf Prize, she holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a former Poetry Fellow at the Writers’ Room of Boston. Her work has appeared in a range of print and online journals.