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
silently watching,
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
or expected
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.

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