Janet Norman Knox



The windows plastered
with white butcher block
paper, black letters proclaim
things that are hard
to clean. Sleeping Bags Wedding Gowns—
not your normal Monday washing, not

your sheets, not towels.
Things you do not know
how to clean, the weight of wet,
beyond the scale of small
to large to modest loads.
Rugs Blankets Leathers

spring cleaning after glacial
retreat, wedding gown cool
after a long honey
stain to remove, to shuffle away
between sheets of tissue to dry
a salty eye for a child

to grow into. Comforters
promise olamic sleep,
cushion the cleaning,
Pillows the head
held high over steam
of iron, spit of starch. Down

Garments like wearing Pillows
soft landings in an icy
marriage. Drapes, reasons
to come When
Quality & Price Count.
We do not agree.

Come to Eastlake Cleaners
for the angel to teach you to love
city birds and trees, birds
in city trees, grain and wind,
grain cast in wind. She will fly
from the window and we will learn.



                              Bird warbled to bird, overheard,
eavesdropped on the party line, wind whistling
poles crackling Alexander
Graham Bell.

                              Now twenty pairs
of yellow claws clench
the telephone wire. Beaks preen.
Wings stretch iridescence, await

                              Joo-Eun, Silver Pearl
to finish her afternoon

She will dust the parking lot with gilded grain. Here

at the door to Eastlake
Cleaners When Quality & Price
she coaxes, tosses crumbs to shy English Sparrows.
She whispers Korean vo-

                                                            wels like pearls.

They understand as one
wisdom, syllables
silver and ringing.



Let's run through that again. In plain language, she steps out

of the door to Eastlake Cleaners, and is swarmed
          by a plural of birds, a charm
          of finches.

This is not Hitchcock, no flights of fancy. This is not a thaumaturgy. This is not
          an evangelist's tent.

A halo of wing surrounds
          a woman who is not stunned, smiles,
          calmly lifts her arms, conducting

a feathered symphony. Do I report this to the local Department

of Miracle Control, tie small prayers
          on ginkgo branches? Do I build altars
          in the parking lot, shower them

with blossoms? Shall we petition to canonize her for gifts to lowly workers who do not sing.

We hear them crying
          the way they do when they are ready
          to settle for the night.



falling into a lake a moment
intricate, white, dissolved

(waiting for moon)

to join thousands of liquid years
glacier lake made pure

(to rise through tree trunks)

by snowflake each your face
at the edge of vision lace repeating

(moon in the wrong part of sky)

itself tatted by hand every expression
crystalline perfection

(where it has never been before)

your face on my skin melts
a year passes like a snowflake



on INSTRUCTIONS...: Keeper of the cleaning codex, my mother hangs the wash in the bitter cold wearing a mink "only reasonable use for it" coat, sublime ice to vapor. Call when in laundry quandary.

on MURMURATION: A study in plurals. A quote from Paul Wilner's Serious Business (Paris Review) memorized in 1976.

on BELIEVING...: We, the people, believe rather fervently in many things that are not amassed in the power structures of major world religions, hiccup fortune 500s.

on A YEAR...: "Without A Bird" and "Landing Under Water, I See Roots" by Annie Finch and "Ask Me" by William Stafford.