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    Such a negative connotation. Mar, blot, sully. How did something that started as paint and difference morph into a moral rebuke?

    Some of the best parts of life are messy: childbirth, good sex, slurping pasta with marinara, or a hotdog with all the fixings at a ballgame, planting vegetables, herbs to ring their edges; a hike up a mountain, or through a field, the kicked up dirt mixing with sweat, staining your socks a dull tan. Baking bread, the flour dusting the floor after 20 minutes of kneading, dough under your nails. Stuffing a turkey, hands rubbing the cold skin with olive oil and spices. Making art. Writing. Falling in love. Learning a new song. The first time you try anything.

    All these things make a mark, stain us, and we are maybe never the same.

    Today I did laundry. After submitting my thesis for binding, finally pushing send. One last comb through at the coffee shop, a harsh edit on a poem, which I am super happy about (that I took the time to cut, shuffle, and glue), and then finished by lunch. It is technically due July 1, but I needed to be done. So I can start the next thing.

    The Laundromat is open 24/7 and filled with characters, interesting conversations every time I have gone. Today’s was with a young guy, who helps out occasionally at VSC, who I had not met before. So, I am standing there sorting my entire hamper (which I dragged down two flights of stairs, dumped in my car and drove the three blocks), into two washers: one for whites (ok, lights and unmentionables), and the other with darks, aka my plethora of black/gray/blue, along with some red pants, an occasional brown or plaid. It was a little awkward to be sorting underwear and bras while chatting with a strange young man, but that is just the deal in my new life: him leaning on the washer, me chatting about the band playing at the bar tonight, trying to appear visibly nonchalant. Then, oddly becoming so.

    Which also means I was moving kinda fast. Anxiety plays a tune in my body and I get jerky and ridiculous even as I smile and laugh.

    All of which is my way of saying my newish red underwear got tossed into the whites load, with my new white sheets, my white button down, towels, etc. Thankfully, the only thing that got stained was the bottom sheet, little light pink splotches all over one end. But also, my new sheets. I cracked up, because it was like making the bed perfectly then cutting my foot on glass and bleeding on the bedspread. My life has rough edges. I stain easily. Things mark me, and then cannot be removed.

    This could be cause for reproach––or then again, not. I am no longer buying the blemish = stigma fallacy, as if we are somehow discredited by dirt, damaged by discoloration. Dye has penetrated cotton but the fabric I will nestle into tonight will be soft and fresh smelling, slick against skin. My toenails will know no difference or sense of disgrace, I will sleep and dream.

    And of course I mean this in a larger way. Art and writing are supposed to spatter and smear, we are meant to be marked, and penetrated. What good is a perfect surface without scarring and depth? Life is not always pretty or planned, but then you wake up one morning and your sheets have a slight pink tinge, and it is as if somebody was trying to tell you something.

    Patrons fold their laundry on a long counter in the middle, everything on display. I talked with a friend last fall about becoming visible, and maybe that is the job here, smudges of difference stacked for everyone to see. Blazoning, in liveries.

    Oh. And I started the new thing. At least a toe in the water. So crazy to begin something without a map. I made copies, of a book. Like 12 of each page. So I can make mistakes and create options without feeling precious. Make structures visible. I think I am ready to be the red underwear in the wash. Maybe not ready, but doing it any way. After dinner, starting on different sheets.


    [steyn/ stān/]


    1. a discoloration produced by foreign matter having penetrated into or chemically

    reacted with a material; a spot not easily removed.

    2. a natural spot or patch of color different from that of the basic color, as on the body of an animal (mark, spot, spatter, blotch, smudge)

    3. a cause of reproach; stigma; blemish: smear, a thing that brings disgrace to a reputation, injury, taint, blot, smear, discredit, dishonor; damage

    4. coloration produced by a dye that penetrates a substance, as wood.

    5. a dye made into a solution for coloring woods, textiles, etc (tint, color, dye, tinge,

    pigment, or colorant)

    6. a reagent or dye used in treating a specimen for microscopic examination; used to color organic tissue so as to make the structure visible for microscopic examination.

    7. HERALDRY any of the minor colors used in blazoning and liveries, especially tenné and sanguine.


    1. to discolor with spots or streaks of foreign matter.

    2. to mark with colored patches or dirty marks that are not easily removed (discolor,

    blemish, soil, mark, muddy, spot, spatter, splatter, smear, splash, smudge, blotch,

    blacken; imbrue)

    3. to bring reproach or dishonor upon; blemish.

    4. to sully with guilt or infamy; corrupt, injure, harm, blacken, tarnish, taint, smear, dishonor, besmirch

    5. to color or dye (wood, cloth, etc.) by any of various processes that change or react with the substance chemically (tinge, pigment)

    6. to color with something that penetrates the substance.

    7. to treat (a microscopic specimen) with some reagent or dye in order to color the whole or parts and so give distinctness, contrast of tissues, etc.

    8. to produce a stain.

    9. to become stained; or take a stain... This fabric stains easily.


    1350 -1400; Middle English steynen < Old Norse steina ‘to paint’; in some sensesan aphetic form of

    distain; late Middle English (as a verb): shortening of archaic distain, from Old French desteindre, ‘tinge with a color different from the natural one.’ The noun was first recorded (mid 16th century) in the sense ‘defilement, disgrace.’

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