Wash

Coming out on the porch, early mornings high
in the hills. Frost on breath curling like

a sentence made visible even before speech.
After breakfast of eggs and bread, coffee

and milk, mountains of wash to do in a basin
that looked like a giant pie tin. Always the women

and girls: red-knuckled, pouring a scoop of white
soap powder, beating the water into froth. Scrubbing

away food stains, grime, the monthly blood; the crushed
and faded yellow flowers of sex. Pinned on the line,

exposed to the wind, stiffened shapes— clumsy tracery
lifted from bodies. What I loved was the smell of sun

sealed into the fiber so later, pressed under a steam
iron, they gave off that grassy warmth kept in reserve:

the truth of the world this endless cycle of being bleached
and wrung, of sloughing off and putting on our skins again.

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