Poetry / November 2008 (Issue 5)

The Clothesline

by Grace V. S. Chin

The clothesline stirs slowly
in the stale morning heat, dripping
with the sweat of an honest
woman's work. Grey rags hang
twisted on the line; the daily
hand washings cannot completely erase
the years of dirt and grime.

A son-child squats in a corner, thrusting
naked buttocks into the brown earth, claiming
the small patch for his own. A knotted
red string loops around his bloated tummy; he
whines, hearing the approaching klock-klock of faded
red clogs chugging across the cemented floor
of the smoky kitchen filled with the harsh scent
of breakfast – last night's rice and salted fish -- being
stir-fried in a grease-blackened wok.

A strong brown arm hooks around his thin
frame, the other carries an empty laundry basket.
He turns his head restlessly, seeking a swollen nipple
for sustenance, and whimpers when he finds none.
His mother tries to comfort him, humming
a broken tune from her childhood. It is little
consolation. The small black hole on his face yawns
wider, lashing anger and frustration that darken
and contort his youthful visage.

Tomorrow, the clothesline will stir again, strung
with the hopes and half-remembered dreams
that flutter, defiantly, in the stillness of the day.

Editors' note: Read "A Cup of Fine Tea: Grace Chin's "The Clothesline"" here.

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All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.