Washday Mondays Poem by C Richard Miles

Washday Mondays

In Oxenhope my mind flashed back to past times
As, between squat flagstone terraces, I spotted
Slack lines of laundry loose-hung over cobbles:

Washday Monday in these steep stone backstreets
Would start as copper, dolly-blue and washboard
Were ferreted out of dingy cobwebbed backplace.

Each steam-soaked scullery would waft its tart niff
Of sharp carbolic out of darkened doorways,
Doorsteps scoured moon-bright with white-stone.

And housewives, hair swept up or crimped by rollers
Swathed in grubby headscarves tied in slack knots,
Would slipper-shuffle out with chintzy peg bags.

With two-pronged wooden pegs hand-carved by Gypsies,
They deftly pinned the mangle-dry lank hefty linen
On the sun-bleached hemp-rope lines all limply drooping.

Flapping like storm-driven topsails from the masthead,
The sheets would sometimes somersault completely
To wrap around the rope like loose-rolled carpet.

On frosty mornings still-damp sheets would set hard
Stiff as board, trimmed out with silver Christmas glitter
And rustle folded, like some draughtsman’s cartridge.

And God forbid that wayward waif, reckless or wilful
Who sped too swiftly, pedalling round the corner
On his tin-plate tricycle to crash into the washing.

He’d crassly cover the crisp bleached bedding
With traces of his gawky mud-pup pawprints:
In Oxenhope, the other day, I had that flashback.

Error Success