Laundry and War
— a poem by Lucile Barker

Old man’s dead over thirty years now,
but I remember him on laundry day,
how he’d always take off until the heavy stuff was ready for the line,
really preferred it when someone else did it,
paid to have the cleaning lady come in an extra day.
We lived in a Steeltown,
smog held in by the valley. 
Yellow wasn’t sunshine,
but pollution,
although we didn’t call it that,
named it “prosperity” as we visited the emergency
or the doctor came to give us a shot.
The old man hadn’t been that old in 1915,
lied about his age.
The old bachelor next door had lost a leg.
Sometimes they said a slow poem made of place names:
The Somme.
I thought it was Latin, some kind of prayer,
but those were curses.
He wheezed worse than me.
I learned to sing In Flanders Fields.  
He turned away,
never went to the Cenotaph in November,
sulked in late April.
The smell of washing like those yellow clouds
heading toward the trenches are a reminder of the day,
both the sight and sound, rolled toward him,
but he was so far back that he and a friend
grabbed messengers’ bikes and outpedalled it,
but still looked back like Lot’s wife
and saw their comrades in the front ranks
gasp and die.
I never use bleach, but some spring days
I pass the laundromat and remember the battlefield. 

The Poet: Lucile Barker is a Toronto poet, writer and activist. Since 1994, she has been the co-ordinator of the Joy of Writing, a weekly workshop at the Ralph Thornton Centre. Her recent poetry and prose publications include poems in The Big Scarborough Art Book, Linden Avenue, and Decades Review. Her poetry has appeared on posters and in the 2013 Digging to the Roots Calendar. Her recent fiction published in The Quotable, Memewar, and Green Briar Review. Upcoming work will be appearing in Paper Plates, Mixitini Matrix and Subterranean Blue Review.

The Photographer:  Eleanor Leonne Bennett is an nternationally award winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic, The World Photography Organisation, Nature's Best Photography, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph , The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United states and Canada.