Number Ones

It’s ours, you know, this laundromat, 
this obscene diner with salty cake 
gleaming in its dusty dome—
what a mix! The starched soapsuds, the chrome
crook of a high chair’s arm…
I’m yours, whines the radio. Alarms
in the distance—car alarms, like shouts. 
Gargling, the Maytags belt out 

their anthems. Impressive:
if fed enough quarters, the sound 
can travel for days. It’s fate, 
drawls the singer. Mid- to late
morning, the Top Ten trade-off 
blasts its masters. He picks up a riff 
where he left it, makes good 
on the cryptic promise of wood 
panels. You can decide, you know, 
from the menu. Warm, at least, and cheap—
“Siddown, hon, and eat!” barks the waitress. 
(Battered chickens, in all stages of undress, 
a dry fritter of coleslaw beside.) 
At the machines, a thin boy with Tide™ 
spills a bluish stain on his collar. 
(Waste of water, costs a dollar 

to fix.) The music makes the mix
of folks who seem to wash their own names:
Sweater Vest (prim and pallid)
hums to a freshly written ballad, 
station and cycle set on fluff. 
Rinsing his flannels, Tough
reads Louis L’Amour, the real 
pulp-Western wunderkind. It’s ideal, 

ideal, you know, to have music
this flat here—but the waitress
tunes out calm, twists the dials
from boredom. “Let’s hear this awhile”:
hop-skip songs for Cold War kids, plum 
in their Duck and Cover delirium. 
It changes again! She near-misses  
the notch: ‘It’s Kiss, hon, it’s kisses 

for you.” The guitar’s grind 
dies, gives ground to voices: We break 
to bring news from the capital…
Slot your quarters in—the admirable 
bass hums on. Use dryer sheets for static. 
The ducts bleat loudly, erratic 
as brass, while buttons hone 
their rhythm and a wizened dryer groans 

its last. The white jukebox knows no equal
but music. Look: the restless 
waitress scribbles up your bill. 
If all the news should make you ill, 
slot one quarter in each ear. 
Block it all out. Customers leer 
as Maytags whir with cleansing powers 
and car alarms shout “It’s ours, ours…”