Buying black towels
was a bad idea. Remember this
as you dry off and become
infuriatingly fuzzy. Remember
the reviews that said,
Do not buy these; they leave black lint
on everything, in bold. But
you wanted a green and black bathroom
more than you trusted. Now you can add,
They attract it too.
You can go leave a review that says,
I didn’t listen, but be warned;
these towels are the pits,
will leave lint in your pits.
Then you can stand naked
and bend, run your right hand’s pursed lips
over your skin
in a counterclockwise motion, make
and wad up every piece of advice
you should have taken.
Kaci Skiles Laws
Review by Brian Builta
I’m in love with poems about the everyday, whether they are about finding food, combating hatred, or buying towels. Human endeavor large and small. Here, with simple deft humor, Skiles Laws takes us from towels to the internet to trumping trust with desire to all the times we’ve passed on advice we should have taken. Like a solid soccer lineup, the 4-1-4-1 structure provides strength yet space to carry the reader along. I hate adverbs in poems but have to admit my favorite line is “scantily, infuriatingly fuzzy” with it’s y-y-y why!? Been there!
Review by Massimo Fantuzzi
Lint, thread, fluff, dust, fur, fuzz, everywhere. And it all glues—how very true!
But what if black towels were not the only things capable of leaving an army of sins on the clammy tormented skin we’ve just scrubbed clean?
Looking at our naked life and numbering the many residues stuck on it, that never-ending build-up of mostly foreign objects, it seems all we are good at is walking around collecting dregs, incapable of keeping a clean sheet. Blame the towel. Don’t blame the towel. Blame the towel. Blame yourself.
“I didn’t listen“: those words read like the perfect engraving to fit on an infinitude of gravestones (I know it’ll fit mine).
This poem invites me to think that perhaps our skin is made to end up covered in stuff; perhaps, it even suits us and makes us what we are; perhaps, listening to others’ advice is just an overrated form of courtesy; perhaps, warnings on labels have been put there to tempt us and tickle our fancy.
And that “counterclockwise motion“ makes me think of the times when we all walked around covered in fur, spending uncounted hours resting in blank meditation running our finger in it looking for nits, without the foggiest idea that one day our needs will take the shape of a colour coordinated bathroom and customers’ review for life-changing home-improving purchases…? Oops.
Review by Kyle Gervais
This is my favourite kind of poem, one that finds the poetry, and the humour, in the everyday. An everyday situation—online-towel-buyer’s remorse—and everyday language—“infuriatingly fuzzy”; “you wanted a green and black bathroom”; “these towels are the pits” (setting up a joke just the right level of juvenile). I also love a poem that tells you what it’s going to do right away: “Buying black towels / was a bad idea,” in hilarious enjambment. The closing lines gently break free from the four-line/one-line structure of the rest of the poem to deliver a precise, complex image of private embarrassment, frustration, and impotent rage that can express itself only as “tiny tornadoes.” I particularly like, “your right hand’s pursed lips”—the speaker, obviously, disapproves of this entire affair, but has no one to blame but their own, naked, linty self.
The situation is everyday, but also delightfully modern. People have been making bad purchases for ages, and ignoring good advice for even longer than that. But only in the Time of Amazon can we so precisely quantify the foolishness of our optimistic desires: so many dozens or hundreds or thousands of one- or two- or three-star reviews telling us exactly the mistake we are about to make. The speaker joins in the online chorus with a warning of their own, but this only heightens the silly tragedy. A black and green bathroom set would have been nice indeed, but ours is a cruel world.
Review by Calvin Jolley
What domestic fun. I love being reminded that poems needn’t be so dour. The playfulness (pits and pits), the mock revelation, the accuracy of reviews overlooked for the desire of green and black. Great stuff here—excluding the uninventive construction of “pursed lips” in first line of fourth stanza. (Why, why, why must lips always be pursed?)
Review by Dave Mehler
Caveat emptor. This is an object lesson, a fable, a metaphor and advice all rolled into one, very neatly, into the kind of poetic material that I strongly suspect could only come from lived experience (by somebody or somebodies). If by the author, she does an amazing job of transforming a quirky unpleasant experience into art and artifact. Very funny, and structurally attractive and pleasing with the 4/1, 4/1…four times. Good command of line break and enjambment. Great poem! Seems like somewhere, way back in my personal history, I’ve experienced this effect, maybe at a vacation rental? So, the question is begged, how and why do they still produce these towels?! Which adds another layer to the human condition that is the poem.
Review by Jared Pearce
My favorite bit here is the “right hand’s pursed lips,” which lets us see the speaker’s reaction (her dissatisfied pursed lips) and the way the hand is working to remove the lint. That’s a great double-move. I also like the angst toward revenge at all: the speaker’s upset at herself for not taking the reviews/advice, ok, but to me she also seems to be upset at all the advice, maybe all the advicers, and maybe, too, I’ll have to admit, that the tornado of her living, maybe the linty scruff dusting her days is partly her fault for not being advised. I like that level of disgruntledness—it makes me feel not quite so alone.
Review by Keaton Studebaker
This poem made me laugh. It immediately brought to mind reviews I wish I had heeded after having purchased certain items. I appreciate the attention to detail and how the poem showed me something I did not know I knew. I had not paid attention to the annoying lint some bathrobes (or towels) leave behind, but upon reading the poem I realized that I knew exactly what the author was talking about. I also like the image of a tornado. I think that the havoc wrought by a tornado in tension with the relatively minor annoyance of the leftover lint is an apt image for this poem. The use of the tornado embodies a spectrum of consequences that can arise from ignored advice, which can range from devastating to comical.