My mother took care of my father's shirts,
the ones that froze on the line during Minnesota's blue Winters.
The ones that smelled of sweat and cigarettes
she washed by hand when electrical lines froze and snapped.
The grey and black with red piping,
light blue oxford cloth with extra starch,
Saturday night polyester,
white linen with button down collar,
quilted plaid flannel ones.
The same ones she laid over chair backs in front of the stove
to thaw, and ironed every Wednesday night since they married.
The shirts she hung carefully in his closet
according to color and sleeve length.
It was the shirts she watched him remove from the hangers
and throw on the floor that made her realize
her life had become a series of unappreciated repetitive tasks.
It was those shirts she took from his closet,
folded neatly in a pile behind the house,
set ablaze, and burned to a cinder.
As she watched twenty years of her life
rise in white clouds of smoke
against the icy Minnesota morning,
it occurred to her she had not felt that warm in years.