Perhaps you recall helping
Mother hang wash on the backyard
Rope line, you holding a raffia basket
Piled with damp cloth. Possibly your small fist
Clutching clothespins to hand her, one by one.
Very many years later you visit her
In the small apartment she moved into
After Daddy died, and she opens the door
In tears. You enter. Soon she points to what
In the bathtub defeated her: a queen-size quilt
She had attempted to wash there. It is bloated,
Too heavy for her to lift. Difficult also for you.
And it may be
That now that you come to think about it
You cannot remember if you did actually
Assist her back then in the backyard.
Was there a smell of starch or not?
And whether the raffia basket at first
Felt heavy to you. Were birds singing?
Was the sun really doing its thing in all of its power?
And, if you were a boy, did you do this more than once?
Perhaps you had a sister who more often
Helped out Mother in this way. And how did you feel
About the family’s underclothes —
Little shorts, bigger boxers, panties, brassieres,
Slips, formidable girdle –
Brazenly still or swung silently to and fro by breezes.
Jonathan Bracker is published in several journals and collections: The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, Concerning Poetry: Poems About Poetry. He is editor of Bright Cages: The Selected Poems of Christopher Morley; co-author with Mark Wallach of Christopher Morley; and editor of A Little Patch Of Shepherd’s-Thyme: Prose Passages of Thomas Hardy Arranged As Verse.