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Since 1996 Volume XXI

Paola Corso
Paola Corso’s fiction and poetry are set in her native Pittsburgh where her Italian immigrant family found work in the steel mill. . Her writing honors include a New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship and Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award. Corso’s new poetry books are The Laundress Catches Her Breath, winner of the 2012 Tillie Olsen Award in Creative Writing, and Once I Was Told the Air Was Not for Breathing, featuring Pittsburgh steelworkers and garment workers in The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and in sweatshops today. A lecturer in Chatham University’s Low-Residency MFA Program, Corso lives in New York City.  More info at http://www.paolacorso.com/

The Laundress Catches Her Breath


She swore off cigarettes, thinking

the cost of the cartons she’d save

every week would be enough


money to rent a room, move

out of her father’s house.

But then Stubby cut her hours


again and the Maytag suds

saver broke the same day.

She was right in the middle


of a rinse when gray recycled water

flooded the garage floor. She kicked

the machine square in the gut,


didn’t care what her father said

about conserving water, didn’t care that

they had had that machine for as long as


she’s been driving—her aunt

was right to use clean water

and not a suds saver. They stopped


making them in 2001, which

told her something. She kicked

it again and rescued her clothes out


of the filthy water. Before she could

mop the floor, her father came back

from church, drove his four-door


sedan halfway into the garage.

He saw a dirty river run toward

his new whitewall tires, slammed


the brakes, got out, grabbed

her clothes, and threw them

on the ground to soak up


the water. The sight sent her

out the door for a smoke, though

she told her dad she was going


to call a repairman. She ran

to her car parked up the street,

got in and rolled up the windows


so she could inhale through

her mouth and nose as if sitting

in the chambers of her lungs.



 Paola Corso - The Laundress Catches Her Breath (CavanKerry Press, 2012)



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