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.