Volume 21, Number 1

Keeping Clothes White

Everyone has something they do
when there is nothing else
that can be done—some knit,
some jog, some pour
alcohol down their throats,
and then . . .
some choose to do the laundry.

The summer of our separation
I washed white trousers,
white socks, white shirts,
white shorts, as if my marriage
depended on their whiteness.
So when I heard of the woman,
living in the Gaza strip,
going to the pump for water and
searching for bits of soap
to keep the girls' dresses white,
I recognised a sister straightway.
For though we are oceans apart,
that summer we could have been
standing side by side pumping
water together to keep our
children's clothes white.
Not knowing, in our desperation,
what other action could be taken.

First appeared in a fund-raising anthology for Doctors without Borders, Take Heart.

—Naomi Beth Wakan