Wednesday, October 8, 2008


In the house we lived in the longest in the Sierra Nevada, the main living quarters were on the second floor, which also had a porch. My father attached one large pulley to one of the porch-posts and another to a pine tree a hundred feet away. Then he threaded a cable through the pulley-wheels, and my mother used this to dry clothes on. It remains the longest clothesline I've encountered, and of course my father had not calculated how much strength was required to push the loaded line out and pull it back, so some strength was required of my mother and us. Children of the Great Depression, my parents owned an electric dryer but almost never used it.

I have not done so yet, but I'd like to track down the biochemical and olfactory-biological reasons why clothes dried outside by breeze and sunshine universally smell so appealing to people. I would hazard that cotton thusly dried may smell especially good. With regard to the odor of the dried cloth, what do the sun and the breeze do that a machine-dryer doesn't?

This has all been a circuitious introduction to a poem about clothing, except the poem has almost nothing (but at least something) to do with this drying business I've been discussing. --So it goes with poems, introductions, clothing, and blogs.

The Clothing

Laundry in a basket still wore
some of sun's expenditure
and breeze's perfume.

Eventually, we put on these
washed things. They led us
back out into sunlight, into
lakes of air. We wear

the repetitions of our days,
dress our bodies with our ways,
fold clothes of our woven

consciousness, put them
in closets of memory, hang
them in dreams, where they
re-costume themselves
in carnivals of synaptic light.

People from an old civilization
called Time sit beside a slow
river, rubbing wet cloth with
stones, paying no attention to
the gods who splash and cavort
nearby, who rise from the river,
and cloth themselves in sky.

Hans Ostrom Copyright 2008 Hans Ostrom
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