Mennonite / Amish Laundry: aka Big Clothesline for Black ShirtsPhoto by Daniel Peckham/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0

Figure 1.1 
February 1. 65 degrees in SE Ohio. Our minds shift to “April” “earth,” “skirts.” We check lawns for daffodils-in-the-making, our laundry remembering how to flap. No one checks the 10-day forecast. We don’t want to know.

Figure 1.2
On my way to play piano for a ballet class, I spot a sunflower the size of my palm on the sidewalk ahead. Escaped from a bouquet? I think, excited, Or a sign that spring’s settled in? I reach down to be its rescue—find out it’s plastic. The rest of my day feels the same.

Figure 1.3
A college town openly displays its secrets, especially when snow finally melts. Crushed green glass and leopard bikini briefs, abandoned; an open pizza box with a necklace inside; cigarette butts, the tail-ends of conversations never finished. This time of year, the ground can reflect us. 

Figure 1.4
For seven weeks, I gently build up to two questions, give my poetry students hard homework: What does it mean to be a writer in a time of war?, What would you ask a soldier if you could ask anything? Only half the class shows up to answer. I come home and pull covers up over my head, just another bulb.

Figure 1.5
The full moon pulls out dreams like silk pajamas from open drawers. For weeks, my sleep’s been filled with characters in plain dress, actors in bonnets or suspenders pretending to be something they’re not. I am the one who calls them out, reveals their false identity. Exact accusations from these dreams: “Who’s your bishop?,” “What have you given up?,” “What’s your favorite cheese?” The question I get most often about my upbringing: “What makes you different from me?” Sometimes, it also feels like accusation.

Figure 1.5a
Last night, I was going to build a house on the edge of my grandpa's farm—but in the dream, I didn't recognize the land. I wake up frightened.

Figure 1.6
The wind stirs up more questions, allergies, afternoons under the quilts. How long can a Mennonite last without community?, Have the squirrels eaten all the daffodil bulbs?Could my students spend a whole day in silence? Could I?, Who will shake our lives gently, tell us, "Shhhh—You've just been dreaming?" 

Figure 1.7 
Even Thoreau kept secrets hidden by the louder things he said, had his mother do his laundry. The wind blows our socks from the clothesline and into the woods. The president gives a speech. We forget what we’re funding. It's too warm to care. I may never know what my students have learned from me.

Figure 1.8
Accepting the shape of one life takes practice. Remember asking for someone to help you trace the outline of your body on a sheet of torn-off paper? Did you recognize yourself as only border? I swear, just now, I smelled what the garden could be.


Becca J.R. LachmanBecca J.R. Lachman is a poet, college writing instructor, and singer-songwriter living in Athens, Ohio. Her first book of poems, The Apple Speaks, investigates her Swiss Mennonite roots along with being an "AMK" (adult missionary kid), and is slated for release in April 2012.

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8Reflections

Reflections

As usual, amazing.  This poem, plus the surprise doughnuts at work, have made this a Tuesday to be remembered. 

With my best Homer Simpson salivation voice: "Mmmm.... dooo-nuuttttssss..."

When I saw "poem" in the tweet I got excited. When I read the 'poem' I was disappointed, as usual these days. 50 or so years ago I remember singing:

"Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I'm found,
Was blind but now I see."

I typed these lyrics from memory. I often wonder what happened to "poetry" but wouldn't spend a second arguing about form.

It seems Ms Lachman tried to inspire her students to write a poem about war. I didn't need her inspiration to write "Soldier's Lament". The senseless carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan was enough. http://www.thelastwhy.ca/poems...

Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts, Doug. I'm not 100% comfortable calling this piece a poem, so you are not alone! It dances in-between genres, and b/c that's how it surfaced & b/c this strange weather and world often leave me feeling "in-between," I left it in this form. I get cranky when I see The New Yorker publishing Leonard Cohen lyrics in its poetry section, though--I think there are distinct differences between a song lyric and a poem.   I actually wasn't trying to get my students to write a war poem but was encouraging them to mindfully consider the violence they (sub)consciously notice or even take part in. 

Just lovely.  Especially Figure 1.8.  Perfect for a week of false spring days :)

Thank you, Dawn! Our crocuses are in full bloom here in Ohio. 

I may have been waiting all my life to know what AMK stood for.  Thank you.  I too, am an AMK.  We are a very very rare breed indeed!   My favorite pic. of raising children on an old farmstead was endless rectangles of white cotton flapping on the clothesline in the foreground, black and white cows lined up and facing me behind them, leaning against the fence as if hoping for the freedom of the flying diapers.  LOVE the imagery of the Amish pic..  

Yes, we are, Joanna! I'd love to hear more of our stories...Thanks so much for posting your thoughts.