Mrs Kessler by Edgar Lee Masters from Spoon River Anthology

Mrs. Kessler

by Edgar Lee Masters

from Spoon River Anthology (New York: Macmillan Co, 1916)

In this vintage photo, a washerwoman looks resigned to her onerous task.

Laundry Lady – Vintage Photo
Original photographer unknown; image collected by Flickr.com user “Fosterx2”
Creative Commons License

MR. KESSLER, you know, was in the army,
And he drew six dollars a month as a pension,
And stood on the corner talking politics,
Or sat at home reading Grant’s Memoirs;
And I supported the family by washing,
Learning the secrets of all the people
From their curtains, counterpanes, shirts and skirts.
For things that are new grow old at length,
They’re replaced with better or none at all:
People are prospering or falling back.
And rents and patches widen with time;
No thread or needle can pace decay,
And there are stains that baffle soap,
And there are colors that run in spite of you,
Blamed though you are for spoiling a dress.
Handkerchiefs, napery, have their secrets—
The laundress, Life, knows all about it.
And I, who went to all the funerals
Held in Spoon River, swear I never
Saw a dead face without thinking it looked
Like something washed and ironed.

More Spoon River Anthology excerpts

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