Creative Arts with Patrick Moore


massage for ironing – a prose poem
November 6, 2014, 12:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This morning I noticed my wife had left the ironing board where we usually set up the massage table.

The table height is about the same, to bring your work up to a height between your navel and your breastbone. Why? To activate your chakras there? About the height of kitchen counters. Women’s work. Menial chores meaning untrained but not meaning unimportant. Untrained meaning you don’t get this training in college. Your grandmother teaches you how to iron, your mother teaches you how to prepare food on the counter and stove. If you go to any training for this, you can’t earn a degree in it. It is not an important degree. It is not important training. These are not important skills. They are skills for people who can’t rise to the more important trainings, degrees, skills. Who would choose cooking, ironing or massage, if they were capable of better? Well, certainly nobody from our parents’ generation… because they argued, they opposed us. Why lower yourself? You want to make beds for a career? Smooth out the wrinkles? Smooth out the wrinkles in their muscles? But honey, you can do better!

The motions are similar. A two-handed stroke, side to side. The do-er’s brain has a similar experience—first sensing where the wrinkles are. Finding them is something you have to learn. Not anyone can run their “tool” over the material and immediately find where it is kinked or folded over upon itself. And once found, then, then you (insert magic here), and then the wrinkle is no longer there.

Grammy does this so easily, she makes it look like there is nothing to it. Perhaps this illusion is why Papa thought (while he was alive) ironing is unskilled, menial. Not like being a machinist. Though he had never tried it, he looked over, after a greasy day of micrometers and drill presses, and deduced that it would take hardly a minute to get it. Ironing was below him. But now that he’s gone, and its just me and her, … why is it not coming so easily? It looks so easy when she does it. But my hands don’t get what she is telling me. I can see her doing it right there, a foot from me, steam from the hot surface multiplying her grammy-scent, and yet no matter how close we are, … How many lessons will I need?

She seems to be under the same illusion. It has become so easy to her, and sixty years since she learned it (between the wars) that she no longer remembers there was a time before she knew it. She also believes it is easy, that anyone could do it, that anyone could learn it in a minute.

Steam from her nostrils. A dribble of saliva. Though she contains it I can see she is exasperated that I have not yet gained the skill. (Now that she’s gone I look back and think, this delay in my getting it, the need for several lessons and still falling far short, is a compliment to her. This skill is far more complex than any of us knew. It requires sensitivity and discernment and that third thing. She does not realize the depth of her own skill and the complexity of her own process. This is why she grows impatient with me. Her frustration, only now, proves how much more she is, than anyone had given her credit for, even herself. This could have been a good thing.) But we simply stop talking about it. Our unsaid words seem to say, she will continue to do the ironing. Her downcast eyes say she is disappointed in me.

I offer a consolation. If you iron my shirts, I will provide your massages. To my surprise she agrees immediately. Perhaps it required our coming to this frustration. Before this bargain her puzzle was, how someone smart like me, who went to school for a year and got a license, would barter that skill with someone simple like her, doing the most menial of tasks. But her puzzle got some traction, when we both saw I can’t iron. Three lessons and still no. Only in this moment would she accept the barter, that in the first decade she will say has kept her walking, and in the second decade of our barter she will say has kept her alive.

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