Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Far from where your sharp glance and mine could meet,
a laundromat on Rue des Pyrenées
was where I learned to fold a fitted sheet”
which, in a different language, seemed OK.

The parisienne who showed me how to place
my hands in the sheet’s corners, shake it straight,
then bring both palms together, was an ace
at teaching without judging. ( Why so late? )

At 21 I was a cultured waif,
a refugee from family politics
into another mess where I’d felt safe
with hasty marriage thrown into the mix.

Did this kind-hearted stranger know, or care,
that her instruction held a hidden prayer?