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American Pastime
Barbara Crooker

A June morning, the air hung with the scent of roses
as my mother irons, filling the kitchen with steam.
She sprinkles the laundry with water from a ketchup bottle,
showers the sheets, blesses the shirts.
Everything is pressed, even dishcloths.
Outside on the line, towels smell of wind.
The stack grows taller as the morning wanes.
Soon, there will be sandwiches,
tuna glistening with mayonnaise
on crushable white bread,
drinks made from syrup in lurid colors.
And then the long, long afternoons,
the sun, pitched and searing as a hardball
coming at you fast and clean.
Swinging hard, you connect,
hickory to rawhide,
a moment hanging in time,
stretching fresh and clean as the sheeted sky,
when days were caught, suspended,
when the dark meant only hide & seek
or time to come home.

From Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2015).
Used here with the author’s permission.



Barbara Crooker’s poems have appeared in numerous magazines, journals, and anthologies and have been featured on the BBC, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company), The Writer's Almanac, and in the Poetry at Noon series at the Library of Congress. Her awards include the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, fifteen residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a residency at the Moulin à Nef in Auvillar, France, and a residency at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland. Barbara lives in Fogelsville, Pennsylvania; read more about her at


Post New Comment:
Reminds me of my grandmother's ironing. One of my first poems about that! The lunch was different, but the feelings and the memories, much the same. Donna Hilbert
Posted 07/01/2015 03:03 PM
Marilyn L Taylor:
Another wonderful winner from Barbara. So moving, and so well done! Kudos!
Posted 06/29/2015 04:20 PM
Beautifully written, loved the ending...the end of so many things ~
Posted 06/29/2015 02:04 PM
Judith Heron:
Thanks for your post, Larry. I quite agree...after the ironing 'opener' the poem grabs with 'the sun, pitched and searing as a hardball' and the glorious lines: 'a moment hanging in time/ stretching fresh and clean as the sheeted sky'. This is a poet who knows how to leave us breathing the 'deep'. Marvellous poem!
Posted 06/29/2015 01:25 PM
Larry Schug:
Interesting how most of the commenters so far are women who seemed focused on the first half of the poem. I was kind of not so interested in that, though my mother did all the same things, but the second half of the poem grabbed me tightly and won't let go. The second half better describes my experience of those long-ago summers. Very nice poem.
Posted 06/29/2015 12:55 PM
Beautiful poem, Barbara. I remember that time well, even Dad's shorts were ironed. Always enjoyed the smell of the steam, and the fresh sheets were good to bury your nose in still hanging on the line.
Posted 06/29/2015 12:02 PM
I loved the poem! After my mother died, I ironed my Dad's shirts--7 white ones each week.
Posted 06/29/2015 11:17 AM
Lori Levy:
Posted 06/29/2015 10:59 AM
Ginny C.:
lovely poem, just lovely
Posted 06/29/2015 09:55 AM
I love it!
Posted 06/29/2015 09:18 AM
I can smell the laundry when I read this poem. We had a mangle - you could iron a lot of flat pieces on it. I could do hankies and dish towels, but mu mother was the only one who could actually iron dress shirts on it.Thanks for it all.
Posted 06/29/2015 09:00 AM
Memories! Remember helping my mother hang laundry, and I did the family ironing, including dish cloths, etc. I also wrote a poem about it all.
Posted 06/29/2015 08:29 AM
We used to have to iron even my dad's snap-front cotton boxer shorts. No way for a ten-year-old to make those look good. I could zip through a pillowcase, though. Great poem for remembering!!
Posted 06/29/2015 08:26 AM
Janet Leahy:
Wonderful memory piece! I'll look for that "moment hanging in time" today. Thank you.
Posted 06/29/2015 08:23 AM
Pat Brisson:
Another beautiful Barbara Crooker poem! Thank you !
Posted 06/29/2015 07:28 AM
lovely, and I remember that time well...thanks Barbara!
Posted 06/29/2015 06:53 AM
Barbara Crooker is one of my heroes! I wish I still hung wash on a line (now outlawed where I live). I miss the way laundry used to smell, the sensation of snapping clothes to dislodge any bugs things came off the line. I even think I miss the odd earwig that would make it into the house.
Posted 06/29/2015 05:42 AM
I'm glad for all the perma press fabrics, but there was a real satisfaction in ironing. I still hang out laundry when possible.Brings back thoughts of mother and what my childhood and early adult years were like. Beautifully written. Thank you Jayne & Barbara
Posted 06/29/2015 03:05 AM

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