We bring the outside in—the smell of lilacs fills the room. When my mother lies down to nap she pulls the cover to her chin, her dark hair across the pillow.

This is how she sleeps after the wash is done. The ringer machine squeezes water out of everything. You must use both your hands, to feed and catch. Later we’ll have a washer that goes round and round and a dryer, but Mother will still hang sheets outside. So we can smell the breeze, she says. But when it rains she hurries out, holds clothespins in her mouth.

Shut the windows!

I watch her paint her nails poppy red. She dyes her hair and eyebrows too. A pair of shoes at the door means she’s going somewhere. She has lots of shoes. I don’t. My feet are growing still and must be measured at the store.

This is how we spend the days. There are twenty-four hours, but I never see all of them. Now, go to sleep she’ll tell me, there’s nothing there. She takes piled-up clothes from the chair, pats my head, and slowly, slowly slips away.

GAIL PECK is the author of eight books of poetry. The Braided Light won the Leana Shull Contest for 2015. Poems and essays have appeared in Southern Review, Nimrod, Greensboro Review, Brevity, Connotation Press, Comstock, Stone Voices, and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart, and her essay “Child Waiting” was cited as a notable for Best American Essays, 2013.

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