Mary Jane White







The sun even before dawn

Tactile in the window-wells

Of the basement laundry

& seeing how by watching

I relax 

My body bends to sun

I myself know I am bending

& light-shafts run up the bleeding heart 

Solidifying as if its stems were glass






& hardly mist as the sun rises






Slow-warming heat


Glimpse of bluebells swaying at eye-level






I adore you   I think

Where the window stands open

Odor of darkness

Where these spring up near the concrete

Odor of rain 

Of the newly-planted lily bed

Filling slowly   light-catcher

Settling of large grackles






So when am I coming

Creaks the box-stair

& I am careless to know what is coming 

Rumbling & when is not truly alive then

& when is it the same

Not truly






Let the basket drop

Push in the sheets

Socks   shirts   blouses  dry now

& ready to be dampened    chilled & ironed

With the tag-ends flapping over






All this giving which is not my giving






Dusty patches & how we come from them

Dust released from earth

Into air

Seals of the stone stair where water stood

Where earth was washed away   runs off

Dries   cracks open    curves up into shallow plates

The dull unglazed clay surface all cupped

As hand-cups

Bird-baths set out to catch a next rain

Shallow & shallow 

Lip to lip

With the dust nearly always rust-red






When the machine groans

At putting its load & drum of water in motion







I might think what I like 

I might turn it on

Then off again 







& why is this draining

A little beneath my feet

Only a little then

From wherever

Not apparently so important

& how is this thin sudsy sheet spread

Over the floor 

As my feet remain rooted

& I am watching 

Wondering idly what a plumber might recommend 

A reliable one

& considering the cost

Of addressing what is after all only a small inconvenience






& the overhead mystery of a hundred

Years’ of wiring & rewiring & welded & stubbed out pipe

& in one corner the spotted round drain-cover  

Hiding what






A long while perhaps since

The mud splashed up on the hems of clean sheets

That quickly

& all to do over again

A woman who had been so careful at pinning them out

Using her mouth & both hands 

Hitching first this way then that 

Until the greater part

Hung reasonably flat






& sharply into my head an odor of

Washing powder 

Its acrid chalkiness able

To rise from such a small puddle






Take a step back as it spreads thinly everywhere

Then regrouping toward a lower corner






Bestir yourself   I say   I narrate






Whose idling was


Yes   this is the point

Yes   it is a loan 






Even from a poor woman

& as drought receiving rain

& a solid wall where there is dust in the air






& sugar & while night flees 

Before the tasks of harvesting & preserving






As the man of the house slept companionably

In his chair

Lulled by listening







Then the slow soaking rain 

The heavy mist of another morning

& the racket of birdsong

& the wet feet of the clothes-rack in oily water

Which I  a woman

Pick up   re-set

& then ducking my head

Mount the box-stair

The back-stair

Look out

Into bronzed vine where song explodes

& the cool breeze passes

& the boy cycles by

With his thin plastic bags of flyers 

Pedaling hard

Side to side






& know this is it

We are in for another round 

Another check below

A quick climb






Feet on the wooden stair

Setting all our laundry upon the landing






Carrying the new-packed clean-gleaming jars

Carefully down 

With the dust settling

Yes & notice it again

The sun









Mary Jane White is a poet and translator who practiced law at her home, the O. J. Hager House, in Waukon, Iowa, and is now retired to Amen Lake, Deer River, Minnesota.  Over the years, her work has appeared in various anthologies, journals and literary magazines including New Directions 46: An International Anthology of Poetry and Prose, ed. James Laughlin, The Hudson Review, Poets Translate Poets (Syracuse, 2013), ed. Paula Dietz, The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Nimrod and The Black Warrior Review.  She has attended numerous writing conferences over the years, most recently in 2016, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Sicily with poet C. Dale Young.