Poem of the Week | March 02, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “The Laundromat Saint” by Sebastián Hasani Páramo!

Sebastián Hasani Páramo is the son of Mexican immigrants. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, The Kenyon Review Online, Cosmonauts Avenue, Southwest Review, & North American Review, among others. He is the Editor-in-Chief of THE BOILER. He has received scholarships and awards from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Vermont Studio Center. He holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Denton, Texas as a PhD candidate at the University of North Texas. Photo Credit: Paxton Maroney.

The Laundromat Saint

The way mother folded
                my clothes.                                   What did I learn?
                I still don’t know what I’m doing.

My hands could never be as good.
                Eight years old, I’m with Mom at our laundromat,
                a handful of quarters to keep us busy,
                                                                                    a gumball machine,
                                                                                    a knob that turns

                a Snickers bar,
                a can of store-brand root beer,
                a little wrestler in his tiny plastic dome.

I pat my pockets
                for a prayer card from my mother.
                It lives there.

Today, a man in the rear works evenings
                while I thumb prayers,
                coins & sink into rhythm.

His hands chisel & chisel little curls off
                slabs of wood.
                Mother of God,

the man carves saints into this shape:
                Guadalupe, Lupe, Guadalupe
                I hum with care while he works

endlessly. He blows the sawdust away.
                I’ve been waiting for my mother’s hands
                to fold me all along.


Author’s Note

I began drafting “The Laundromat Saint” many years ago when I lived in Yonkers, NY for graduate school. The man carving a saint is based on a regular sight seen at my local laundromat. Originally, the poem was more concerned with functioning as a machine. I liked the washers and the coin operated toy dispenser begin juxtaposed against the event of the man carving a saint. Over many drafts and rejections, I saw this concern as less interesting. When I began working on my current manuscript, I wanted to use the poem in the collection and found that making it more personal would elevate the poem. Growing up, my mother liked to go to the laundromat and would take us with her. I remembered my brother and I used to find ways to make the trip fun. My mother would give us coins and let us be. When I attached this memory to the poem, I started to see more possibilities in what I was saying and feeling. I also thought about what my mother means to me and what my relationship is now to that memory. Whenever I read this poem aloud, it reminds me that I should be grateful for her and what she’s taught me.