Washday, Small & Enough of apple picking now
by Don McGrath
[ poetry - may 04 ]
The glass was blue-green, like the sea,
and furrowed like it, too. Unlike the sea's,
its waves all rose to the same height
and never broke, holding in their smoke
like a bunch of grapes. Braided like rope
or long liquorice, rough to the touch,
they rubbed the woman's knuckles raw
as she scrubbed the clothes up and down,
down and up in the wooden, iron-hooped tub
that spilled its suds out onto the grass
behind the house, where the white clothesline
tipped and tilted on its long green stick.
The woman next door would step up to the fence
and, palm on reddening cheek, praise
such industry as this that kept poor Hannah
busy until all hours. But soon she'd flee,
driven by some sudden recollection, or by jealousy,
back into the house. Then a finned car
with fierce shark teeth would ever so slowly
grumble up the gravel of the lane. The boy
would be there, too, next to his mother,
guiding his own little car or peeling dark
strips of bark off speckled chips of wood
piled by the chopping block, where the bright red noodle
leaped out from the rooster's neck
the last day his father took down the axe.
"I feel so... diminished!"
Pass me that raincoat,
I'll wrap this bundle
of bones in it.
Slip me a gripe
to suck on, a black puckered
raisin of pure bile.
Hand me my ledger,
there's one more slight
to go under Receivables.
I'm going to be so small
you'll have to talk down to me!
I'm already curled up
like a foetus or an apostrophe.
Enough of apple picking now
Thank you, you shook my tree.
I lay supine
on the paid-for sofa.
I swam through water
that was more like steel.
"Don't be embarrassed," said the doctor,
"take the pills."
I took the pills. I found myself
standing at 3 a.m.
before a burning house
by the General Hospital.
A surgical mask
was pressed into my hands.
"Put it on," said a voice,
"it's for the fumes."
I put it on
and watched, my legs
tangled in the hoses.
were clean against the sky.
Then I wandered home
through Upper Westmount
where my attire
elicited a threat.
Some thugs of privilege
had me figured
for a "faggot" - a faggot
coming from a fire.