In the Laundromat

she sat in the middle
I next to the door
sphinxes with a riddle
silent ever more

black and white together
instinctively on guard
neither knowing whether
the other to regard

united for the moment
uneasy in the truce
imposed by dirty linen
washed in public view

tending to the washing
watching the machines
taking in the tumbling
like television scenes

each of us behaving
according to the law
pointedly ignoring
the human being we saw