American Life in Poetry: Column 537


One of the first uses of language must surely have been to tell others what happened beyond the firelight, out in the forest. And poems that do just that seem wonderfully natural and human to me. Here’s Anya Krugovoy Silver telling us something that happened far from home. She lives and teaches in Georgia.

Doing Laundry In Budapest

The dryer, uniform and squat as a biscuit tin,
came to life and turned on me its insect eye.
My t-shirts and underwear crackled and leapt.
I was a tourist there; I didn’t speak the language.
My shoulders covered themselves up in churches,
my tongue soothed its burn with slices of pickle.
More I don’t remember: only, weekends now
when I stand in the kitchen, sorting sweat pants
and pairing socks, I remember the afternoon
I did my laundry in Budapest, where the sidewalks
bloomed with embroidered linen, where money
wasn’t permitted to leave the country.
When I close my eyes, I recall that spinning,
then a woman, with nothing else to sell,
pressing wilted flowers in my hands.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by Anya Krugovoy Silver, “Doing Laundry in Budapest,” from I Watched You Disappear: Poems, (Louisiana State Univ. Press, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of Anya Krugovoy Silver and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.