I hang my mother's laundry

May 15, 2020

Today’s poem is “I hang my mother’s laundry” by Jeri Theriault. She’s lives in South Portland and is the author of four books of poems, most recently Radost, my red (Moon Pie Press 2016) Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies such as French Connections: An Anthology of Poetry by Franco-Americans and Three-Nations Anthology.

She writes: “After my mother’s death in 2001, I went to the laundromat to wash her clothes—mostly polyester stretch pants and blouses. When I recently decided to write about that experience, my memory took me to childhood images of  ‘empty sleeves’ flapping on the clothesline.  Back then, my mother wore cotton housedresses--in stripes and prints with big pockets and full skirts. I wanted that brightness and ‘wind-lift’. I wanted my mother to be both absent and present in the details of this poem."

I hang my mother’s laundry
by Jeri Theriault

to touch her dresses   
clothespinning this backyard patch   
these flags    her colors
sudden wind-lift
as her home-permed hair
never would   
lift like her sheets   blind-white 
tut-tut the way
she turned me with one
raised brow
lift blue like her backdoor
blossoms   
breeze-roughed 
the unbroken insistent furl 
of her laugh-spewed
smoke
my mother’s helpless
dresses flap the clothesline hard
the week after we bury her
everything hand-washed
those empty sleeves   
that phantom love

Poem copyright ©2019 by Jeri Theriault.