top of page

my dead aunt helps me

with laundry

Leila Chatti

Because I did not die I returned to find the mundane mess 

of months of illness: sloughed socks like snakeskins 


coiled in corners, sweaters pooled soft as shadows, and lace

bras hung limp from the bedframe.


She is patient; she knows how this goes—despair 

unshakeable as a bad cold, how it makes you


clumsy and slow and nothing 

gets done. She puts a little music on, sifts through 


the detritus shifting her shoulders in 

a sad-girl shimmy. I could teach you


a thing or two about almost 

everything, she says, slipping coins in the mouth


of the machine, but let’s start with the laundry.

Pouring detergent, she says, Sometimes there are stains


that will never come out. Says, Cold

water for blood, dish soap for grease. She fishes the black tongue 


of a sock from the load. 

Maybe the most important thing to remember is when 


you have something dark, keep it separate—

Then we sit on the floor to sort through the rest.

Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and author of the chapbooks Ebb (New-Generation African Poets, forthcoming 2018) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editors' Selection from Bull City Press (forthcoming 2018). She is the recipient of fellowships and awards from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, Dickinson House, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, where she is the 2017-2018 Ron Wallace Poetry Fellow. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, The Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, New England Review, Narrative, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.

bottom of page