Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer on the line

It's August in North Carolina, the hottest week of the summer. I'm lethargic and nostalgic, these dog days raising childhood memories of the weeks I'd spend at my grandma's house every August. And when I think of my grandma and her tiny 1950s ranch house on the outskirts of a small town in the Carolina foothills, I think of hanging laundry.

Laundry was a daily chore at my grandma's house: hauling the heavy, wet bundles to the line; hanging socks, shirts, and sheets neatly, according to her exacting system; pulling clothes off the line, sun-baked and crispy; folding them into tidy stacks. In that August heat, a load of clothes took only an hour to dry on the line.

I hope Vivi won't mine my appropriating her poetry-posting style, but one of my favorite poems comes to mind in thinking about these things. It's a Richard Wilbur poem, also about summer laundry:

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,
"Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.''

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

"Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.''

--Clothesline Photo by MissNathalie--


  1. Such a beautiful post and poem. My grandmother is a coastal Carolinian-there is something especially warm about grandmothers at the countryside. Thanks for sharing.

  2. lovely poem and photo... love seeing colourful laundry on clothes lines blowing in the sumer wind ;)



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