Elmhurst, Queens 1975


Washing machine tousles dirty clothes, suds

searching for cleanliness. Dryer sheets scent

the air. Mom and auntie fold clothes of strangers

for $2 an hour. Disco plays on a transistor radio

outside the bubble-gum store next door. A man

smoking a cigar walks past the Laundromat.

He grabs my ponytail. My follicles cry. He keeps

pulling as if he’ll take me to the edge, drop me

into the void of his face. My neck strains

past my ear. Ponytail that reaches my tailbone

smells of charcoal, his wrinkled hands. A big

black hat atop a face with no nose or mouth.

Why would he take me? Where is my mother?

It is daylight and there are so many people

on the sidewalk. As he reaches the edge

of a tar-stained sidewalk, he lets go. Just like that,

no reason for taking me, no reason for letting go.

As I enter the Laundromat, a girl sits on the side-

walk and takes a piece of freshly thrown Bazooka

bubble-gum off the concrete, into her mouth. I tell

mom and auntie as they fold just bleached cotton

undershirts not even looking at me. They laugh

and say, “What man? You’re fine Sonia. You’re fine!”

After all, I am still here. They keep folding underwear.


On the radio, the music stops playing in the middle

of a Jackson 5 song. A man says the war is over

and our men are leaving a place called SighGone.

When they come back who will believe them?

Sonia Arora has been teaching literature and humanities for almost 20 years. Her work as a teaching artist takes her into classrooms across Long Island, New York City and Philadelphia where she explores oral history, digital media, poetry, activism, and film-making. She has published short fiction, essays and poetry in Apiary, Sonic Boom, Philadelphia Stories, BioStories, and more. In addition, she leads a writing workshop for adults called Writers on the Sound.