Two Poems by Jan Harris

Another Laundry Day for Betty

Every Monday, without fail,
Betty would peg her washing on the line.
Sometimes it froze like startled ghosts
trapped between two worlds.

Now, girls with smoky eyes
say “Take it easy,
you’ve done your bit Elizabeth,”
as they smooth the creases
her fretful fingers make.

Betty wonders why they call her Elizabeth.
She remembers the tiny woman
who taught her to hang sheets
so they billowed in the wind like sails
and cursed like a trooper
when rain spat on a day’s hard toil.

She keeps an eye on the weather,
a wicker basket by her chair.
It’s a good drying day she whispers
as she waits for the shout
to peg out the smalls.


He’s quiet on her lap,
kneading himself into the shape of her,
little dough feet
dandled in a bowl set on the floor,
warm water milky with lather.

She soaps each toe separately,
works suds into the spaces with her thumb
where grains of dirt gathered
from running barefoot with a kite
across the cricket field.

She’d let him hold the spool,
hand cupped over his for fear he’d let go.
So much to learn,
how to control the kite’s persistent tug,
the play in the line before it falls.
A sudden squall at two brought tears.

They’ve left the wind’s demands outside;
the windowpane amplifies the rain’s percussion,
otherwise the room is hushed,
their own shared space.

He’s sleepy now,
heavy on her knee.
She smells the outdoors on his skin,
the meadow of his hair,
wraps her arms around him like the cord
that held them close.


Jan Harris lives in Nottinghamshire and writes poetry, flash fiction and short stories.  Her work has appeared in places such as Ink Sweat & Tears, Mslexia, Envoi and Acumen. She was awarded a place on Writing East Midlands’ 2018 mentorship programme and is currently working towards a first collection.

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