by Elizabeth Crowell

When my mother does the laundry,
the washer, shiny as a new baby,
whooshes and cries
behind the accordion door.

She sits in her claw-footed chair
and stares at the shaking door,
like a sleepless mother,
waiting for the shudders to calm.

She cannot manage the dryer,
with its stops and starts,
the threat of shrinkage real;
her mind does not fit her anymore.

She uses instead the laundry rack
from the basement
of the house we grew up in,
with the red door, thick as a heart,

a piano with a mahogany top
that arched in half a room,
a painting of a monk
threading a needle behind it.

Each spring, she would wash
two dozen white curtains
in the stone basement sink,
plunge the light, airy tulle

in the seeds of bubbles, drench
and wring them with pink hands,
spread them, limp, whole-bodied,
on the retractable, outdoor line.

The laundry rack bears
faded underwear, stiff, cotton socks.
Her hands, permanently bent, shake
the wrinkles from my father’s plaid shirt

and put it on a hanger
that faces her ivory turtleneck,
the one she wears beneath everything,
until the hollows of their sleeves touch.

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