Ode to the Clothesline

After Alfred Stieglitz

Not so much the missing of things
but the nostalgia of colors, their music,

the ordinary revelation of a family’s life
caught in the flop and dance, a jig,

if you will, of their layers, outer and inner skins,
the secret things so close to the body,

the taste, the salt and sweet of blood, and shit,
and piss, and then, rinsed and scrubbed, leaving

beneath the astringent scent of soap
a musky marker of self for strays

to smell or imagine as they walk
past the parade of the living

on taut lines, propped by poles
with nails for a hook, above

the startling green of grass and hedge,
the barefaced concrete steps,

the sky, inscrutable as a wall;
this is what one carries as a kind

of sweetness — the labor of brown hands,
elbow-deep in suds, the rituals

of cleansing, the humility of a darning
or a frayed crotch, the dignity

of cleanliness, the democracy of truth,
the way we lived our lives in the open.

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