Karen Dowell

My lips are swollen, raw
mimicking the mauled afterglow
of teenage necking sessions--
without the lingering taste of sex.
I close my eyes, looking for the boy
who gave me my first kiss,
but see only the man in white.

This small, dime-sized man
has begun doing laundry in my head.
I feel him walking around,
hanging cotton sheets to dry
on a clothesline strung taut
between my eardrums to mute sound.
The flapping sheets, the rhythmic whir
of his ancient Whirlpool sudsing my
brain cells into a congested stupor.
As he wrings nasal tissue through wooden rollers,
wastewater trickles out my nose and
pauses on the raw, swollen outline
of my blown dry lips.

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The 2River View, 1_3 (Spring 1997)