The Tao of Towels


“Why do you do that?” she asked
as I flipped the towel end to end
in its final fold. “Do what?”
I asked, but was pretty sure I knew.
“Why do you fold the towels in half
then in half again on the same axis,
instead of half, half in perpendicular
and then half again?”

“I dunno, is it important?” I said
and began wondering why, too.
Maybe I do it for the same reason
I fold tee shirts like they do
in the store, bottom to top,
flip in arms, fold right, fold left.
I other words, I didn’t know why.

But I knew it was important
HOW to my shrunken soul, which I
drape on a stiff plastic hanger
that has foam rubber along its bar
and on each shoulder, lest
spiritual me slip off and become lost,
once again forgotten, in the dark
back corner of my heart’s closet.

I flip-flip-flipped another towel
onto the pile, careful I’d precisely
squared its corners with one another.
“You’re right,” I said. “It’s really
not important, as long as the laundry’s
clean and neat.” “No, I just wondered,”
she said, heading upstairs with an armful
of conflicted terrycloth compulsions.

4 thoughts on “The Tao of Towels

  1. How a humble plastic hanger with foam rubber can give a reader pause and know the connection to a shrunken sould, is unknown to me, yet I read and sighed right there. Talented you, Joe.

  2. Working in the homes of seniors now (real seniors Joe–over the age of 85), I’m amazed how differently everyone does things like folding towels, shirts, underwear, hanging slacks, and even what direction they hang their toilet paper. I have my way, but I do it their way as I’m in their home.

    I loved the imagery of the hanger with the foam tops keeping your soul/spirit hung up so it doesn’t get lost in the closet floor. I see people who are rather like Eleanor Rigby, keeping their soul/smile in a jar by the door. I don’t think you’re like that at all, but that mental image came up as I read your paragraph about the hanger.

  3. Amazing how, after all these years, marriage requires that we tolerate the tiny irritations that come from two individuals making a life together – although differently.

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