LAUNDROMAT DE NETEZON
My mother cries when she does the wash.
It’s the perfect moment for mothers to cry
because the revolving drum of a washing machine
generally makes quite a racket.
I can still hear her sobs, but so quietly
they really could be just ambient noise.
A washing machine licks the day’s wounds.
You can put anything in it that doesn’t fit in your head.
Unused sheets for example.
Or the tobacco smell in the coat of your grandfather with throat cancer.
Long cycle, sixty degrees, cleansing ritual.
I spent ages thinking it was unfair that I had a crying mother.
As though I had to go to school carrying a heavier bag
and whenever we played drop the handkerchief
I’d briefly think that the hanky was for my mum.
I made sense of the phenomenon of the ‘crying mother’ by guessing
there was not enough water, that this was why she’d stare into the washing machine
thinking long and hard about dead pussy cats, long enough
for her to be able to do the washing with her tears.
I grew up with salt stains on my clothes.
Translated from Dutch by Michele Hutchinson