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Thread Count
Terri Kirby Erickson

My mother hung wet sheets to dry from a rope
that stretched between two poles in our backyard,
her motions smooth and rhythmic as a synchronized
swimmer. She stooped and straightened again
and again, her hands moving across the line faster
than squirrels on telephone wire.
From my perch on the swing, I watched her work,
pumping my legs until I touched puffy
white clouds with the toes of my shoes, the squeak
of the metal chain steady as a metronome.
My body felt light as dandelion seeds, floating.
Higher and higher I swung, until it seemed
I was a kite soaring on the end
of a string. I slung my head back and let my hair
trail in the dirt, closing my eyes so the sensation
in my belly was like the swift
descent of an elevator in a tall building. The sun
felt like warm maple syrup dripping
on my face, and the air smelled of honeysuckle
and bacon grease in glass jars sitting on the window

sill. I opened my eyes as my mother lifted
the last sheet from the pile, with light illuminating
the threads like the hours in a child’s summer day,
too many to count.
From Thread Count (AuthorHouse, 2006).
Used here with the author’s permission.

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of three collections of poetry, including In the Palms of Angels, which won a Nautilus Silver Award for Poetry and a gold medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry, 2013 Poet's Market, The Christian Science Monitor, storySouth, Verse Daily, and many others. Terri is the mother of a grown daughter, and lives near Winston-Salem, North Carolina with her husband of many years. Learn more about her at



Post New Comment:
I was swinging right there in that swing!
Posted 03/13/2013 02:00 PM
This takes me back—way back! Splendid descriptions, each one exact and beautiful.
Posted 03/13/2013 09:24 AM
so lovely...I was there, only it was my beloved grandma--thanks for the memories! Sharon Auberle
Posted 03/13/2013 09:02 AM
Wonderful imagery. You took me right there to share those memories.
Posted 03/13/2013 08:59 AM
I worked in a textile plant that made sheets many years ago. The first thought that popped in my head when I read the title was, "muslin or percale?" Terri took the poem way beyond that, to childhood recollections told in great sensory detail, circling back at the end to "thread count." Beautiful poem.
Posted 03/13/2013 08:07 AM
Did you grow up on the NW side of Chicago?? I was transported right there to the swing next to you. Your descriptions are perfect--from the elevator stomach to the metronome squeak to the saved bacon fat in the jars. I still hang my wash out as soon as there is a hint of spring in the air. Thank you for these words and shared memories. Marilyn Zelke-Windau
Posted 03/13/2013 08:03 AM
Terri Kirby Erickson:
Thank you for the kind comments! This particular poem is very meaningful to me as I am still very close to my wonderful mother, and this poem describes such a warm memory of my childhood. And I have to admit, I still love to swing... :o)
Posted 03/13/2013 07:29 AM
"faster then a squirrel on a telephne wire"! Oh Terry what a beautiful poem. Thank you
Posted 03/13/2013 07:08 AM
Larry Schug:
What a beautiful, descriptive poem. It has that elusive ingredient I call texture. I can feel this poem.
Posted 03/13/2013 06:39 AM

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