All is rucked on the wind-blown line

Billowing sheets and puffed up skirts
are plucked from gripping pegs
and lowered where the basket lies
expectant as an empty cradle.

Pressing knife-edged pleats
into their crumpled lives
seemed like an assertion
kindled in the kitchen’s hectic heat.

But thrusting home the point of the iron
in the sear-seamed point of the cloth
where they’ve reaped the rewards
and I gathered the leavings –
the odd pink sock, a poplin shirt:
double cuffed, collar fraying –
feels like failing.

I’m laundering a lot
(to keep my hand in.)
Stretched across the ironing board
Lies a shirt, sleeves trailing.

I rub the fabric between thumb and forefinger
to feel the texture of our love:
thinned and weakened by the friction
of endless smoothing..

All should have been abandoned,
rumpled and reeking in the wicker bin.
Instead, I’m eking out a whiff of them
in the washed-out folds of my memory.

Now they iron out their own wrinkled lives
or not. To ask
seems like a submission.

(Jane Dobson)