Today is washday. My Mother
hooks the old tub to faucets
over the slate sink, wrestles cotton sheets
through wringers, hangs them outside
on the sagging clothesline.
Tuesdays she irons, setting up the heavy board with its scorched pad
dampening our blouses and skirts
with a Coke-bottle sprinkler,
testing the iron’s heat with her finger.
We wait for the middle of the week,
when she wears a flour smudged apron
to fill date cookies, stir Kiss pudding
shake warm doughnuts in a bag of sugar
to feed our impatient hunger
Thursdays she claims as her own
translates Latin essays, scours
Readers Digest Condensed books
crafts poems on backs of grocery slips,
weeds her flowers and studies birds.
On Fridays, she cleans for the weekend,
scrubbing the kitchen linoleum on her knees
pushing the tired Electrolux over the carpet,
shaking fresh-smelling sheets onto the beds,
waxing the piano my sisters play.
Most days, my Mother nearly forgets
the life she’d once intended for herself.

Laurel Mills