From breezeway or through front porch screen
You'd see the sheets, wide blocks of white
Defined against a backdrop of
A field whose grasses were a green
Intensity of light.
How fresh they looked there on the line,
Their laundered sweetness through the hours
Gathering richly in the air
While cumulus clouds gathered in
Topheavily piled towers.
We children tightroped the low walls
Along the garden; bush and bough
And the washed sheets moved in the wind;
And thinking of this now recalls
Vasari’s tale of how
Young Leonardo, charmed of sight,
Would buy in the loud marketplace
Caged birds and set them free—thus yielding
Back to the air which gave him light
Lost beauty and lost grace.
So with the sheets: for as they drew
Clear warming sunlight from the sky,
They gave to light their rich, clean scent.
And when, the long day nearly through,
My cousin Anne and I
Would take the sheets down from the line,
We'd fold in baskets their crisp heat,
Absorbing, as they had, the fine
Steady exchange of earth and sky,
Material and sweet.
from Sapphics Against Anger and Other Poems, 1986
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