On the top unlooked-at shelf
by Michael Shepherd
of the cupboard rarely opened
there it was.
A tidy, self-effacing, neat and ordered pile
of mother's ironing
- after how many years? -
of those seldom used, worn almost to holes, frayed,
white things, for the house and family:
their worn yet serviceable hems and stitching
ironed with a jeweller's perfection...
and suddenly the living and the dead
were intimate and closer than any sought or unsought sentiment,
and I was a child again
taking in without commentary
as children do,
yet in every fine detail,
a mother's love;
a love simply watched, observed;
not, for a change, demanded
as a matter of course:
the iron nosing with supreme care
across the smell of hot and just-wet cotton
with a little, smooth, smooth swish,
over the warm bed of cloth and blanket,
taken from their special drawer;
the hand and elbow moving with a dancer's grace.
and I knew then,
in the nose, the nub, of that just-rightly-heavy iron,
the whole love of a woman and her life -
repetition and care, duty, love unspoken -
all the emotions raised by family
who'd never dream of thanking Mum
for the ironing...
'Where's my special shirt? ....M-u-mm....? '
No wonder that so many women hate
this incessant, unthanked act
of holy communion.
And I reflected:
every child should have the chance to watch
without commenting - as children do -
but seeing what they will remember all their life,
in every fine detail,
some to imitate it and remember;
some to find it after years,
on the shelf unsought
within the cupboard seldom opened,
(in the rose-garden, beyond time,
and time past is time present; and the time is always now...)
this act, this ritual
of purest love.