It’s my very strong belief that poetry and prose is for sharing. Once written, it should be shared so others can take pleasure in it or perhaps receive a degree of relief in knowing others have felt the same emotions or had the same experiences. This sudden declaration comes after receiving an email from a friend, asking permission to read my poem out loud to her mother who suffers from dementia. She believes this poem would make her smile.
Concerned about copyright, she sought permission and asked if she could also read the poem out loud for another group she attends, who have members of retirement age.
This made me think. To protect our rights to “maybe one day” be published, we cling to copyrights and legal protection – but surely this is all going too far? What happened to sharing tales around the fireside for pure enjoyment? I’m saddened to think we have moved that far away from those days…. here is the poem requested, feel free to read / delete / critique to your heart’s content.
The Washing Line
Down dark cobbled back streets, clothes lines stretched
across cohorts of back yards, on Washing Day.
Regiments of white bed sheets hoisted high
flapping like flags, in threatening skies
supported by proud,
immoveable clothes props.
Garments not daring to fly loose,
straddled by dolly pegs
forced down hard.
Above boiling bleach buckets,
malevolent steam swirled, silently seething,
polluting the air with pungent peroxide.
The back door was wedged open, windows wide,
but still its clammy fingers clung to high corners.
Seized shirts submerged in the twin tub
were dragged out of the simmering broth
by oversized wooden tongs, grinning
A solitary circular spinner flipped its lid
with brutal force, revealing a gaping hole
that gobbled up garments,
before firing it’s jet engine
at the press of an oversized button.
A bright warning label spelled danger but,
I was more afraid of grandma.
So I did as I was bid
and stayed two full steps back,
watching a steady stream of captives
being fed into the rollers of the mangle,
pulled out prostrate, straight jacketed,
lobotomised on the other side.
Winched up on a maiden, by rope and pulley
squealing like a stuck pig, screaming in protest;
corsets and bloomers were discreetly dried.
Ponderous drops dripped
onto the oilcloth floor beneath
missing expectant open mouthed buckets.
Hugging the gas fire, a burdened clothes horse
promised more than it could deliver.
A metal mesh fireguard, kept long after toddler years,
lent its flat roof to dry despondent socks.
From picture rail gallows, lifeless forms hung
closing in on the living,
One by one they were gathered,
folded and locked away in the airing cupboard
guarded by a gurgling old boiler in his
pillar-box red padded jacket.
Paroled for ironing; creases were pressed out
and forcibly pressed in.
Under a hellish red hot iron
wet handkerchiefs hissed and spat.
The board creaked and groaned,
along with grandma as she held her back.
Finally, the ordeal was over.
Clothes were locked into looming tall boys
with the turn of a tiny brass key.
The line stretches through time
from dolly tub to auto scrub.
My laundry is gently taken
from a silent washer,
that soaks and spins on demand,
conditioned smooth and wrinkle free
without need of an army of machines,
lightly clipped by brightly coloured pegs.
Still, I discreetly throw my underwear
into the dryer and smile
“What would the neighbours say?”
Mine is an easy load. My line marks the ages
of my babies as their clothes grow.
Our tired old favourite t-shirts
out of shape and faded,
hang comfortably together, blowing in the wind.
Billowing white sheets release
their bouquet of jasmine and lily.
The sun warms my face,
the breeze caresses my skin
like the palm of a hand against my cheek,
or a kiss on the forehead from grandma.