Bottom to Top

Mother and Grandmother
loved things shining—

so I gleamed brightly
like the silver and the kitchen

floor, even had a hanky pinned to me
as I went off to school, Palmolive fresh.

Oh, the sounds of it!  The scrubbing of
teeth with Dr. Lyon’s toothpowder
 and the sink with Bon Ami—the whisper of

dust cloth and mop, the briskness of
broom and dustpan dumping,

the starch of ruffle, even
the towels, undershirts, slips and socks ironed,

marching off in orderly fashion to their drawers;
the flapping and folding of sheets

after the mangle or line,
and the laying down of the body

onto fresh bed linens
with sounds of kisses intermingled.

To keep going they sang or
whistled hymns, my grandmother

under her breath, since whistling
wasn't ladylike; sweeping

and dusting took on rhythm:
Let the Lower Lights Be Burning;

There were Ninety and Nine.
Echoes of Sankey and Crosby

floated along the railings and banisters;
finally up the attic stairs they went,

banishing dirt before them,
mobcaps covering permed brown curls and grey bun,

bib aprons covering housedresses,
their stockings rolled down to their ankles,

from the heat.  Then with their brooms and dust mops
they burnished the very rafters.

—Peg Lauber, Eau Claire, WI