The Wheel...The Wheel...The Wheel...The Wheel It Turns 'Round

Memory
(like Winter)

perfectly preserves it

as if it were a freeze frame
in a movie

one could step into
&
out of

our backyard
Me & my Mam wringing out the clothes
with the water dripping into the tinbath
underneath
the plips & plops of droplets
magnified by water.

I’d feed the clothes into the rollers
minding not to get my fingers caught.

and she like a torturer
with a rack
wrung the clothes dry until they talked

& came screaming out the other side

all crisp ‘n’ flat ’n even.

My tiny hands that could even budge it on my own

would hold on to hers
(powerful & strong)

utterly convinced I was
helping her
with all my puny strength.

“Oh, that’s my son...what a fine
big strong man you’ve become! ”

And she’d never tell me I was
merely in the way.

then she’d slap me playfully
on the bum
and tell me to run away and play:

“That’s a good boy...
. ..you can help Mammy
another day.”

The terrible cold
froze the clothes

into a grotesque mime
on the line

& I’d be crying
complaining:

“I can’t feel my hands
...can’t feel my hands! ! ”

And she’d continue
on her own

turning the wheel
whether it be Winter
or Summer

and nappies grew on the line
& she’d be

pregnant one more time

while inside the house
the last new baby was crying.

“One day at a time
...sweet Jesus! ! ! ! ! ! ”
she sang.

and just got on with
being our Mam.

by Dónall Dempsey

Comments (2)

Oh this is a lovely poem and so aware of your Mum and what it entailed...the hardship that was never seen as hardship(but really was) and the endless endless things to do whether it be washing or babies. How she coped with the lot of you I'll never know. The interaction between you and her and pretending that you were a great help when you were more in her way...was very touching. This image of your mother forever washing seems to have stuck in your mind as I remember two more poems that treat the same theme. Is the title taken from a Kurt Weil song...you seem to be a bit partial to him don't you! I can't remember for the life of me what we called that item of machinery...it was like a mangle but used for clothesl we used to call it the wringer! And boy was it hard work! And on winter mornings! Your Mum must have been one hell of strong woman as well as the lovely woman who sings through your poems. You preserve the image of her very tenderly and lovingly and her so aware of what she had to and did do to bring you up the nice man you are now. You are a credit to her and she is a credit to you. love GinaXXX
Dónall, this is a wonderful evokationary poem. Well written without the need to resort to the Seamus heaney approach. This has so much going for it. The language is beautiful and this make the poem such a pleasure to read.