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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

138. Mrs. Kessler

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.