Hanging laundry out to dry requires more thought and care
than simply moving from one white machine to the other
as the electric meter whirls.
Hanging the wash requires coordination
with the one who burns the trash
because line-dried clothes are supposed to smell
clean and fresh and not like yesterday’s grilled mail.
It requires a weather eye too, gauging whether it might rain
in the next hour or so, and what might happen with the elements tomorrow
and whether to go ahead and do that next load, small though it might be,
because tomorrow might be too late, too wet.
Then there’s the arrangement on the lines:
jeans and sheets on the high end near the poles,
underwear and ladies’ lingerie in the middle too,
socks and small things grouped for easy pinning and removal.
There are bees to watch out for, particularly if the day before
was honey harvest day; there are the wasps
that will start building nests right in your clean clothes
if you leave them on the line too long.
Beware the laundry left hanging overnight, for those underwear, shirts
and shorts may provide a warm haven for a sleepover
for some biting, stinging thing.
Gathering in the dry clothes needs close attention:
folding, neatly piling into the bushel fruit basket
(the only kind for hanging out wash, with its wood-skinned sides
and sturdy wire handles to bring back memories of fifty or sixty years ago
when my sister and I brought in the wash, laughing and talking and quarreling
as we piled the socks and dresses and shirts, diapers and towels and sheets
of fifteen family members into basket after basket).
In winter the clothes will freeze-dry, stiff as a corpse my mother would say
but mostly dry and needing only a little time on a drying rack in front of a fire
to return to a more supple, more living shape.
Last and most important is the sorting and putting away,
each pile requiring your nose to be buried
into sweetness that can only be captured
by hanging laundry out to dry on wire lines over green grass
below white clouds, under blue sky in golden sunshine.