My Mother’s Washboard

image from photo by H. Armstrong Roberts
The old washboard

stands in a five dollar flea market tub
with three faded, scratched up tall coke bottles,
a rusted plaid patterned lunch pail,
a red plastic mesh bag filled with used beach toys,
a broken hobby horse some kid rode once
while yelling, Hi, Ho, Silver! Away!

Among this disregarded dusty junk,
the old washboard looks fragile
as if the wood surrounding the corrugated steel
might fracture should a woman grasp it
intending to use it to scrub stains
from familial laundry
like my mother did with her’s.

I remember my mother’s washboard
standing in her soaking bucket,
filled with 20 Mule Team Borax, Biz, and hot water,
which stood in the concrete laundry tubs
in the basement of the house.

I remember how her knuckles turned red,
the skin raw looking, as she scrubbed blood
from a blouse, pouring salt from a Morton’s
salt container onto the stain then scrubbing
up and down, up and down on the washboard,
then dunking the blouse twice
to see if the stain was gone.
Pour, scrub, scrub, dunk, dunk
pour, scrub, scrub, dunk, dunk
pour, scrub, scrub, dunk, dunk
The pattern, the rhythm, until the stain erased.

I have no soaking bucket,
no Twenty Mule Team Borax, no Biz,
no washboard
to get my stains out.
My bottle of Oxi Clean Stain Remover
pales in memory
of my mother’s washboard.

A Dream of the Wolf

 A whipped dog,
 Head down,
 Eyes, lowered,
 Ears back,
 Haunches drawn
 Dreams the wolf--
 Sharp weapons of tooth and claw,
 Armor of hide and fur,
 Heart of a free, wild warrior.
 A dream of the lone wolf,
 Who may find comfort
 Here or there 
 For a season.
 Then moves onward alone
 Before what will come 
 As the whipped dog knows,
 Always, always does. 

The Rabbit

A rabbit stilled,

Motionless, as if frozen

In the summer grass


Only her nose twitches, flares

The scent of wrongness,

Just a touch upon the air


And she knew

Only flight carried safety

Flight, the right choice to make


But she could stand only statue still

And standing so, the trap sprung

Steel teeth clamping down,

Slicing through skin,

Chewing through chunks of muscle

As she struggled,

Daring not to scream

As screams would bring the predators

This she knew too well.


The trap now biting into bone,

Her struggles stopped.

Her panting calmed.

Her head rested upon the grass.

One eye looked to a cloudless sky.

She prayed for strength to chew

Through bone.

Power Rises

The Lady went dark,

feeling the decline.

The dawn trembled,

as the power of the mother raised

a sisterhood united.


While the capricious one

and his band of merry fools

turned tiny hands

to the magician’s tools

of distraction and deflection,

whipping their devout disciples

to a rabid, foamy hate,

ready to trample their different siblings.


Thus, the mother within the sisterhood

and a faction of the brotherhood

joins them to rise,

persisting in resisting

to protect a nation

for the next generation.