Washer Women

My mothers were famous
unknowns who lived in cellars

where walls wept ceaselessly
in the language of water.

Blue ironing board, dangling cord,
clench of clothes pins

with nothing to hold.
A reservoir,

my maternal line pools
in a porous foundation —

wells up, amniotic.
The only way through

is a sacral path
of cracked slabs,

what I will make
from the exertion of hands

on a wrung rag, hung
like a spent thought in the basin.

Jules Gibbs lives in Syracuse, NY, where she teaches poetry at the Downtown Writers Center, and to children in city public schools. She earned an MFA in Poetry in 2006, and was awarded a fellowship from the Ucross Foundation in 2007. She’s published her poems in many literary journals, and is currently working on her first manuscript.