Clotheslines

Strung between the shade of two sugar maples, a double clothesline hangs taut, ready to hold our lavender-rinsed laundry, fresh from the spin cycle. Bundling damp clothes into the waiting wicker basket, I bend and hoist its heft up to my thick waist, wishing someone would waltz around the corner and offer a hand. Only our sleek gray cat appears, lacing his steps between my bare feet as I squeeze my way out the mudroom’s screen door. Together, we go, down the worn porch steps to the privacy of the side yard.

*

Whenever I pin clothes to the white ropes, I hear my mother’s instructions: give shirts, pants, socks, shorts, a good shake to snap out any creases; clip shirts from shoulders, pants by cuffs, and suspend socks in pairs, toe end up. My hands work quickly in the sway of wind & sound of cicadas buzzing in the sun’s full heat. One by one, the clothesline fills with air. The summer dance begins…

*

Long ago, that is not so long ago but unimaginable now, there was a time when everyone had a clothesline. Only in the early sixties, plastic-coated wire lines were strung between two metal cross pipes set in cement, acting as a division between yards; but, in actuality, were a meeting place where mothers would air their thoughts & the neighborhood boys would race their Scwhinns between the flap of Saturday’s sheets. The mothers, with cups of coffee and cigarettes dangling from red lips, would say Stop—stop it between sips of gossip, until stop became a head-on collision with a set of brothers crumpled on clean sheets.

*

Bloomers—I won’t forget Ooh-la-la, bicycling past the flat roof in Vichy, with its clothesline stretched out in plain sight. The billow of those full moons nodding in the breeze as the church bell began its solitary peal made me wonder if they belonged to the parish housekeeper or cook?

*

Driving in the country, on roads to nowhere, we spot clotheslines parading their colorful displays. There, among the farm’s ruin, next to the blooming lilacs and rusted tractors, the delicates and denims flutter dizzy beneath the steady spin of the lone windmill. The family’s life is the same as the generation of cat sitting on the porch railing, watching.

*

I sing, “The dame is in the garden hanging up the sheets”—Egyptian cotton, luxurious 800-thread, made to last and last, days into years of loving, of sleeping upon a pillow mattress that holds our shapes. Sheets, that do not take sides but let us fall together into the scent of sun, woo us all night long.

M. J. Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Her most recent poems have appeared in Poetry East, The Chariton Review, Tar River Poetry, Blueline, The Prose-Poem Project, and The Centrifugal Eye, among other publications. Her most recent poetry chapbook is As the Crow Flies (Foothills Publishing, 2008), and her second full-length collection is Within Reach (Cherry Grove Collections, 2010). Between Worlds, a prose chapbook, was published by Foothills Publishing in May 2013. She is Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor program at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York.

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