1977 Eliza R. Snow Poetry Writing Contest

By Muriel Jenkins Heal

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    White Fragrance Lingered

    First Place Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest
    White fragrance lingered
    On my mother’s fingers.
    Her aloneness as provider
    Moaned with the washer’s groan,
    And the opalescence
    Of vacillating soapy waters
    Held her smiles in bondage
    As the steamy torrents
    Held the soil
    From a stranger’s seamy linens.
    In the quiver of morning
    She sorted white from color,
    Pastel from dark,
    A measure of something for stains;
    Naphtha chips disappeared into the water
    Like ghosts in childhood dreams.
    Bleach, bluing, and hot starch
    Bubbled through the days,
    A frothy river pumped from the old
    Red spout outside;
    Long hours layered over a hot iron—
    The sizzle of a wet finger to test—
    Haunted the hollow nights.
    Buffeting the childish mind
    Were lines of fluttering things:
    Huge butterflies banked against the wind,
    Goblin shrouds of sheets,
    Long white figures hang-dancing
    In puppetlike routines.
    There: courage bannered in the wind;
    For Mother, lurching with billowing armloads
    Of rustling freshness,
    Would conquer the shape of another day,
    Finger by finger.


    Third Place Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest
    In our book there’s a space for a summer poem:
    With what luscious things shall we fill it?
    With water for splashers
    And ice cream on dashers
    And root beer so high that you’ll spill it!
    I’m glad there’s a space for a summer poem,
    Though I’m sure that we’ll soon run it over
    With bikes right for racing
    And frisbees for chasing
    And picnics spread out in the clover.
    Now pile the space higher,
    Add a tent, add a fire—
    And drowsy-eyed papas and mamas,
    Who chauffeur their crew
    To a drive-in or two
    Before we need winter pajamas.