White Fragrance Lingered

“White Fragrance Lingered,” Ensign, Mar. 1977, 70

White Fragrance Lingered

First Place Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest

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.