Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wash Day [excerpt from "Descarte's Loneliness"]

Soiled thoughts heap up
like rags in a basket.
Time to do a wash.
The weather's right,
bright and windy.
A quick-dry day.

First, soap. Not store-bought.
But stone-hard pig fat
and lye mixed with
oatmeal in a pail.
Then hacked with a knife
into Lux-like flakes.

Then the washer, gas-powered.
Hard to start in the
kitchen, but too heavy
to lug outside.
"Fumes!" (There's
a word for you!)

The blue-enameled kitchen
stove burns corncobs
gnawed clean by pigs.
After the pigs have done
their damndest,
the cobs burn hot.

Water. Well-water
is real cold.
No stove, pigs or not,
is hot enough to bring
well-water to blood heat.
For that you need a heart.

In the root cellar
beneath the kitchen
potatoes sprout
dead white--
because there's
no light.

Outside, on wash day, are
two galvanized tubs
for rinsing in the lovely air.
Rinse Tub One: rainwater, sheer joy.
Rinse Tube Two: the blueing,
too cold to be true.

Then, everything dries on the line
in the winds of July.
What dries first?
Handkerchiefs and lady's underwear.
What dries last?
The farmer's overalls

heavy with desire.
On the bib,
where the heart beats,
his everlasting snuff tin
has inscribed an unwashable
perfect circle forever.

At noon, the naked truth descends
offering her stunning breasts.
Also here comes the prophet
Amos, with something in his hand.
In fact, a basket of summer fruit.
Ch. 8, vss. 1, 2. (Check it out.)

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