For National Poetry Day - I think this is my favourite poem. Written for my PhD, performed by three women, in cyclical fashion. Each paragraph a new voice.
The washing is heavy, thick with water. The sun, light on her bare arms, but already full of heat.
Her body moves in the familiar movement - reach, bend, pull, reach, bend, pull… Arms, fingers, back.
Shuddering, shaking. Noise takes over the house. A machine that needs replacing. A rattle on the ear drums that reverberates through the body. As the second load of clothing whirls into watery knots.
Snap! Flick of sheets crisp in the air. Pegs pinch the clothes, clinging them to the line.
She remembers as a child. The cool run of the river tickling her feet, as they stood in the water, spined curved over the rock, sun on her back, fingers in soap and fabric. Scrubbing sarongs clean. Soap scratching cloth.
Dip into the water. Drape across the rock. The smooth one just past the bend of the river. Broad, it was, almost square, beside the three pointy ones. Her sister had showed her, before she left to go to school, three years prior. Dip soap, just half the bar, then quick, hard movements.
She breathed in. Amongst the layers of hanging cloth. Fresh, clean, wet, the smell is sogood. The detergent fills the air. And the heat off the drying garments create a world, now so familiar.
Slipping one foot out of her shoe her toes dig into the grass and she closes her eyes. Sun shines through the sheets. Dapples of light. Lines of shadow. Change as the wind turns lazily around her.
With eyes closed she feels her childhood through her feet. She tastes her adulthood through her nostrils. He body still, light amongst the moving pieces of material. She could be anywhere. Be anything. Be complicit in her present.
The machine has gone quiet. A child cries. Foot slips back into her shoe. Fluttering t-shirts already, almost dry, in the tropical sun, from round one.
Smiling. She walks back to the house. Another load of washing must go on.
Another wet weight into her red plastic basket and out on the taut line.
She picks up her grandchild, soothes his cry, resting him on her hip as she switches the machine on again for another cycle. Before leaving for work.
Dedicated to the wonderful women who preformed my PhD show (and this poem) Cat, Vera & Gace
Inspired Hamida, dancer I worked with in Sarawak, and by the writing of Robert Coover's "The Gingerbread House"