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Stains

Mrs. Kessler, from Spoon River Anthology, strikes me as ridiculously rich and ripe for development. Her quiet ability to know the lives of those in town through the stains on their laundry is at once beautiful and tragic. She's established a history of Spoon River through patient, silent, observant labor. The stains she scrubs are indicative of life happening all around her, which she does not seem to share (there are no other mentions of her in any other SRA poems). It suggests her own invisibility (herself a faded stain). The idea that you can wash away life -- what a metaphor! 

Plus, her attendance at every one of the town's funerals? Also fascinating! The poem is below the photo.

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.

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