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Bethany Dawson

Author // Writer // Editor

Hanging Washing

May 3, 2020

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At this time, we are all artists engaged in the act of re-imagining reality. We are experiencing loss, grief and possibility. To understand and interpret it requires courage and creativity.

With a husband navigating the front line tensions of intensive care and three very sociable children missing their family and friends, life can feel heavy. We have the added sadness of losing our home and are facing a time pressure to re-locate.

Rather than race to our end point when the outcome is clear, we are challenged to pause and pay attention. We make space for one another to rant and rage; to cultivate silence and stillness; to pray, make bread, chop wood or tend to vegetables that I won’t have the joy of harvesting.

As a writer, my work will reflect the tone and colour of this period. It will be subtle; you might miss it on the first read, but I encourage you to take your time. I have always been told to write what I know. I know endless loads of washing alongside the trauma a doctor carries. I know nature and nurture and forgetting to wear a bra.

What daily act of service could you write about? How would it tell the story of who you are and how your family lives? By paying attention to your washing, your daily walk, your Zoom habits, how might you learn about yourself?

Hanging Washing

Steel wire sags under starling.
Yesterday’s laundry hangs like petrified children,
hardened while dancing with the wind.
The limb of a sweatshirt starts to thaw.

I begin at the sunny end with today’s load.
Starling syncopates my movements,
then whistles while I work.
I turn t-shirts inside out,
knees are rubbed bare on the trousers;
there is a worrying absence of pants.
As the sun rises above the asbestos,
a cardigan waves itself free.
My name is screeched from the belly of the house.

They say black holds every colour.
When sun hits starling, black releases its grip.
I peg the doctor to the line and watch the wind-slack tunic rest.
Blood is stubborn at 30 degrees.
A sweet wrapper is dislodged from a tracksuit;
top cupboard loot that I pocket as proof.
I dig deeper: box nail, pumpkin seed, Lego man limb.

Birdsong carries in the cold.
I separate the score into blue tit, blackbird and wren.
The sticky feet of a onesie take my breath;
this is the last of its kind.
I hang myself at the end: leggings, thermals, no bra.
A uniform with its own decoration –
grass grime, fire spit, blackthorn snag.

The wind lifts, starling scares,
my family fill like weather balloons;
we watch the storm approaching.

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