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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Safe and Sound

We think we're safe now.

What a delusion.

Stop expecting safety.

Those seductive moments when you think

"At last I'm safe"

will tie you fast to the unbending mast.


Regard instead the steam that rises

as you pour boiling water

into the squat green teapot

in early morning.

Illuminated by rays

of just-risen sun that struggle through

the unwashed (sorry!) glass door,

the steam's swirls are gossamer spirals

that shift and curl from the pot

like friendly spirits come for a morning chat.

Pour more.


And thus should our lives be:

As fluid and uncatchable as wisps of steam.

"Safe" stops the flow.

Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Vault of the Heart

This stranger is your doppelganger,

his open hand a reflection

of your heart—

or so you fantasize.


Let's pretend that simply opening

the hand (here, you say, have this,

or some of that)

will unlock the heart's vaults.

Tumblers will twirl and click

until all the numbers

have been notched.

The solid door of the heart's vault

 will glide open

(creak open, more likely,

it's been so long locked),

and out will drift the hurts and hurtings

of a lifetime.

They ease into space

like slow spirals of steam,

and morning light illumines those corkscrewing,

waving tendrils from the past.


Within the now-empty vault of the heart

builds a new spirit

aware of its own connections.

Open hand, open heart.


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Maid Was in the Garden, Hanging Out the Clothes

When I was growing up, we had a long clothesline in the back yard. My mother, Eileen, spent hours pegging out the laundry generated by her six children. For many years she did the washing itself in a wringer washer, with an agitator tub that "scrubbed" the clothes and a wringer of two hard rubber cylinders through which each piece of dripping fabric was fed—one item at a time. My little brother Mike, curious at age three, once poked his pudgy fingers between the wringers and the mechanism gobbled up his arm as far as the elbow before Eileen could turn the thing off. Then she hit the reverse button, thus feeding Mike's arm back out to freedom. No harm was done, and Mike never went near the wringer again.


When I was the mother of three young children in Alabama, the owner of our rented house had strung a wire clothesline between two of our seven backyard pecan trees. During one muggy Alabama afternoon I raced to the yard to gather in the clothes before the threatening storm arrived, and lightning hit one of the pecan trees, transmitting a nice little shock to the metal wire just as I was unpinning a sheet. I didn't let this stop me from hanging out my clothes the next time, but I did have for years the apprehension that I would die due to some application of electricity. (When, many years down the line, I rewired an old lamp, I was sure I had done it right. But I blush to reveal that I was so terrified to plug it in and try it out that I gave that job to my eight-year-old son. It was fine. Luckily.)


Clotheslines. I have long wanted one in our little urban backyard. I would study over the placement (we have no trees of our own in that little space, and I was wary of screwing a hook into brick). But three years ago I bought a retractable line and this year I actually figured out how and where to install it. The post at the edge of the porch is the primary installation. I asked my neighbour if I could (genius alert here!) wrap one of her cedars (right by our fence) with a nylon stocking, to which I would attach the clothesline with an S-hook. Oh, beautiful! No tree has been harmed in the installation of my retractable clothesline.


I did this at the beginning of summer and have been happy ever since. I hang out my clothes and relive my past (minus the lightning). My sheets dry smooth and sweet-smelling. My towels dry rough and coarse so that I no longer need a loofah.


And then. There's always an "and then" moment in my stories. And then, I was careless when I was allowing the cord to retract, and I ended up with the last two feet coiled around the axle of the winding wheel (all encased in a hard plastic cover). I could not pry it loose. For three days I would pick it up, work for fifteen minutes using any implement I could think of that might reach in far enough to unhook the errant cord. No luck. No clothesline.


I considered buying a new one. But $30? And then this perfectly good one (except that the cord was wrapped around the axle and could no longer be pulled out easily)—this otherwise perfectly good one would end up in landfill.


Finally I gave over the task to my husband. In general, mechanical problems in the house are my province, not his, but I was stymied. Okay, I said, conceding defeat. If you can fix it, I'll give you a year's worth of kisses.


How could be resist? He took the device (we were sitting in the front alcove, where the light is good), and messed with it enough to discover that I was right: there was no way to unloop that cord from the axle of the wheel.


Then he looked at the end of the cord, where there was a metal loop that attached to my S-hook. "Why don't you just take the metal thing off, pull the cord through, and then re-attach the metal thing?




I looked at the composition of the metal thing. It was attached to the cord not in a permanent fashion, but by a knot at the very end of the cord, which nestled into the cup of the metal thing. All I had to do was cut the cord just before the metal part, pull the free end through the axle, and re-attach the metal thing to the cord by making the same kind of bulky knot that the manufacturer had used.


I did it (my dextrous fingers are better suited to this than my husband's)—but he got a year's worth of kisses for seeing what I had failed to see. We're a team.


My clothesline is now in use again, and the uneasy itch behind my heart–the one that says "something is wrong, something is wrong"—has eased.



Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor