“White Fragrance Lingered,” Ensign, Mar. 1977, 70
White fragrance lingered
On my mother’s fingers.
Her aloneness as provider
Moaned with the washer’s groan,
And the opalescence
Of vacillating soapy waters
Held her smiles in bondage
As the steamy torrents
Held the soil
From a stranger’s seamy linens.
In the quiver of morning
She sorted white from color,
Pastel from dark,
A measure of something for stains;
Naphtha chips disappeared into the water
Like ghosts in childhood dreams.
Bleach, bluing, and hot starch
Bubbled through the days,
A frothy river pumped from the old
Red spout outside;
Long hours layered over a hot iron—
The sizzle of a wet finger to test—
Haunted the hollow nights.
Buffeting the childish mind
Were lines of fluttering things:
Huge butterflies banked against the wind,
Goblin shrouds of sheets,
Long white figures hang-dancing
In puppetlike routines.
There: courage bannered in the wind;
For Mother, lurching with billowing armloads
Of rustling freshness,
Would conquer the shape of another day,
Finger by finger.