Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Winter Shirts

This is a photo I took of a marble statue in our garden. Keeping with the winter idea, below is a poem I wrote a few years ago. It isn't autobiographical,well, maybe a little. But I have never been to Minnesota. The poem came from my memory of living in West Texas where winters can be harsh. Many days I pulled frozen diapers from the clothes line and hung them all over the house to thaw. It was a great day when we finally bought a clothes dryer.

Winter Shirts

My mother took care of my father's shirts,
the ones that froze on the line during Minnesota's blue Winters.
The ones that smelled of sweat and cigarettes
she washed by hand when electrical lines froze and snapped.

The grey and black with red piping,
light blue oxford cloth with extra starch,
Saturday night polyester,
white linen with button down collar,
quilted plaid flannel ones.

The same ones she laid over chair backs in front of the stove
to thaw, and ironed every Wednesday night since they married.
The shirts she hung carefully in his closet
according to color and sleeve length.
It was the shirts she watched him remove from the hangers
and throw on the floor that made her realize
her life had become a series of unappreciated repetitive tasks.

It was those shirts she took from his closet,
folded neatly in a pile behind the house,
set ablaze, and burned to a cinder.
As she watched twenty years of her life
rise in white clouds of smoke
against the icy Minnesota morning,
it occurred to her she had not felt that warm in years.


Yvonne said...

That poem gave me goose bumps.

Mary Helen-Art Saves Lives said...

My quiet time with my mother was when I got off the bus in high school and no one else was home yet...there were 6 of us in 7 1/2 years. She had her own ritual performance while she ironed my father's shirts for his job and we would have a very few private time to talk about ...well women's work. This theme has run through my own work for over 25 years... as my last exhibit was named "Whispers and Echoes of Women's Work". Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Anonymous said...

I decided to check your blog tonight, and I'm so glad I did. Every time I read that poem--or better yet--hear you read it aloud, I'm pulled right into it. I love it for its contrasts and emotion and understatement and...I could go on and on, but I'll just end by saying "Thank You."


Lana's Threads and Musings said...

Mary Helen, thank you so much for your comment. I certainly want to check out your blog / website. Women's work. Sometimes when I think about that it seems like a sacred ritual performed by women since the beginning of time. A common thread weaves us together.

Lana's Threads and Musings said...

Dear Sister, thanks for your comment. Remember washing clothes on the wringer washing machine outside the back door?