Thursday, July 11, 2013

The morning air is all awash with angels.

Lots of us homemakers, in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, are writing about laundry, as the summer sunshine makes it easy to use the fresh warm air to do part of the job. Cathy even posted a poem, which reminded me of my own favorite laundry poem. Funny, it's from a man's point of view, and written by a man who probably didn't have too much direct experience, but maybe that's why he could see not just the mundane and practical aspects, but the poetry and love of washing and drying the clothes of our fellow humans.

 Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

    The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
                          Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

    Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks; but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

    Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
                                                       The soul shrinks

    From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every bless├Ęd  day,
And cries,
                  “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

    Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
       “Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;

Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in pure floating
Of dark habits,
                          Keeping their difficult balance.”           

--Richard Wilbur


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Although it hurts my back, I just love hanging out my laundry over my balcony. Seems so very much a part of tradition, done for thousands of years, and part of the local color. As such, quite romantic!

elizabeth said...


wayside wanderer said...

I've never read that before. I like it and especially the angel line. :)

Emily J. said...

Love this poem! One of my favorites to use in class to talk about imagery.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

that one line makes the poem. I adore laundry hung outside and do it year 'round if not raining, snowing, sleeting, etc.

Anonymous said...


Gumbo Lily said...

Oh, I like this poem. However, since there has been a great hatch of flies out in the country, sometimes I must rewash what I've hung on the line. Frustrating.

Angela said...

Love this!