“Laundry List” by Michelle Ornat

Michelle Ornat


I’m terrible at running errands, going to the post office, 
picking up my dry cleaning. Once I lived in Virginia
for four years before I went to the DMV to get a license. 
I didn’t want to give up on California, all its sex and sea
and taco trucks and redwoods and freeways. 
But, Virginia, you can have sex in Virginia too.
My morning walk is on my laundry list of things to do for the day.
I love to walk, but I tend to sit around in my nightgown
and drink coffee until eleven o’clock when it just might start raining. 
I’ll pay the bills then. But not before I take an online poll
casting my vote for who wore Ralph Lauren best. 
I wonder what it is like to have sex with a man who is so tan. 
Skin that tan and old must feel like a disappointment.
I need to wash my hair. I’d like to have sex
in a shower or in a salt water pool or in a clear bottomed bay;
maybe in a dream, because I look dreadful wet. I water the plants, 
run out to buy three or four flats of sexless pink petunias. 
I buy some Drano and pick up paint samples: 
bali kiss, coconut grove, tidewater rise. 
I love putting a stir stick in paint for the first time. 
I haven’t had a first time in a long time. 
I prop myself up on a washing machine
during the spin cycle, wondering if I’ll feel aroused.
Nothing much happens. I probably need an older, less efficient model.
I strip the bed linens, chase after the dog, sew a button onto a cuff. 
I clean the kitchen window so I can see crystal clear the petunias. 
I could have sex in the yard, the wind on my face, 
on my naked back, against blades of grass or sky.
I’d like to have sex with men I don’t know and men I used to know. 
I think of all the sex I could be having when I’m writing
a grocery list, shopping for shallots and radicchio at Whole Foods,
choosing a pork shoulder. The produce manager and I can make a bed
of steel cut oats and flax seeds and paper towels in aisle 8.
Nothing like that ever happens. I think about sex each time I peel
a clove of garlic and heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. 
At the first inhale I’m high and it smells like sex. 
I slice an onion along its God-given lines to come down. I’d like
some unnamed man to stand behind me and wash my hands in the sink.

from Rattle #42, Winter 2013
2013 Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

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Michelle Ornat: “For most of my life I have been straddling two places, maybe more, both geographically and emotionally. I think I’ve moved too many times. This year I moved from New York to Virginia. This poem came out of some lonesomeness that exists living between these places. I am struck by how, in the midst of all my social connectivity, I still long for the physical, a touch, a place to call home. In poetry I find a balance; I can put down roots wherever I live.” (website)

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