Sunday, 28 April 2013

That Clothes Thing in the Basement ...

Here's a poem for my 13-year old son.


It is midnight, and there is a word for
the machine you are trying to describe:

that clothes thing in the basement...
for cleaning stuff...

It is a laundry machine my son,
a tool too long in the making
since it only helped to lessen
the domestic drudgery for women,
not men

had men been in charge of clean clothes,
the laundry machine would have been
invented centuries earlier
the best we came up with was a stone, a board, and a line

not bad, though, for found tools within reach
of the babies and the bean rows

women would get the wind and the sun
to help, it only makes sense
when we’re doing everything else, too
delegation is key

Martha Ballard attended the birthing of 835 babies
(834 live)
sometimes travelling all night on horseback,
between neighbouring farms when
two deliveries were imminent,
falling into icy rivers drying her wet
skirts and wool stockings by the fire,
riding home by daybreak
to plant the peas and rhubarb

the only day of the week that laid her low
was the day she died, which also happened to be a laundry day

You and your adolescent friends
seem awed by this machine,
cranky and well-used, you
intone “Maytag” as though it is a superhero
Yet you all wait patiently
as I explain about permanent press
and whites and spin cycles,
I’m a little awed myself

that you even care
that you need your clothes cleaned
so badly, at this hour, on a Saturday night

I tell you “laundry machine”
then give you the tools to clean your clothes
I leave you to the ancient mysteries of the wash
and you do it, yourselves, as men

1 comment:

Willy Miles-Grenzberg said...

Brilliant! Love the linking of the present with herstory(!) Cheers! Lofty Willy Wellington