‘Degas Wants to Paint Me Ironing’ by Anna-May Laugher

Degas Wants to Paint Me Ironing

He says it’s wonderful to watch me,
I’ll just bet it is
when I’m the one who’s working.

He’s going to pay me, pay me to pretend
and now that I’m pretending
I have time to wonder
how my ironing has changed.

First with little flutters of the heart,
rounding the collars, love details
for the man, the loved one.

Some days my belly so far out
I’d barely reach the table,
slow heavy sweeps just shy of burning;
I was tired in those days.

Then my first deliberate scorch,
joy of a brown triangle on linen,
that smell a second before smoke;
ha that was wickedness, his favourite shirt,
he slapped my face for that, but it was worth it.

And ironing some things for the last time,
small nightgowns of disease.
How carefully I did them
folding my heart into the pleats,
pressing my good-byes into the sleeves.
Anna-May Laugher was born in 1959. A prize-winning poet, published in several magazines and online, she is obsessed with ekphrastic poetry, and is working towards a full collection based on a painting by Paula Rego.