The washing machine, on its long cycle,
drains then goes into its final spin,
its beating heart, a thousand rpm.
Here, a poet frets at her task, wringing
armfuls of damask silence in her hands.
Then comes the hot flash. Swamping. Scalding.
In distress, she throws open the back door
and is struck by the pitch of a child’s sharp
shriek, a tearless caw, from over
the wall in the municipal swing park.
The wind falls light, uncanny, like ghosts
in daytime. Agitated a dog barks.
The air is weakly ionised, a hint of rain.
The sun’s rays, thin like skimmed-milk.
The grass meagre, sickly. They built this
estate on a henge of heavy industry;
the bones of long dead machinery
lie in shallow graves slowly pervading
the willow herb and clovered greens. They,
who live here, tend the burial ground
as best they can. A butterfly bush fans
long fine fingers, a fatsia holds out
its palms wide, as if praying, or as if saying,
we can only beg a living in these parts.
The little white houses, yoked, indentured,
though dignified enough, have nothing much
to say on pastoral; they are workmanlike;
even on a thankful day there’s Dethlac
in the cupboards under the sink,
amongst the scourers and the plumbing.
If she could only lift her eyes five storeys
she’d get a glimpse of the grey firth reflecting
space. As it is, climbing up to the sixth
floor only makes objects appear more
opaque, a paradoxical effect
not solely due to complex atmospherics.
A silent ringing in her ears. She goes
to answer it but, as she does, she sees
the words already written: here’s your house;
here is your yard; here is your menopause;
here’s your potter’s field; here’s your sea-sick
washing machine, spinning, spinning.
By Ingrid Murray
THE UNIVERSITY of EDINBURGH Edinburgh College of Art
THE UNIVERSITY of EDINBURGH MORAY HOUSE SCHOOL of EDUCATION