In a Red Dress

in a red dress
a woman on her knees
washes a floor
a hundred years ago

she is shaping the life of her children
she thinks as a woman
does of freedom
a dark place in the woods
where the north enters the trees

she wonders if words mean history a woman
losing her children
if reading is a crime

she does not ask for pity
there is a damp rag on the floor

she wipes
in the dress she slept in the dress
she had her children in

she scrubs the floor
does not brush her teeth
she picks them with straw or sticks

she moves on her knees
and watches the ceiling in the water
reflected in the water
everything in her life
is hard like the floor she

the water in her hands
the water is between her legs
her body like a sack of muscle
her hands are dark with water

she wonders about her children
how many children if she could count
past her fingers
about her body
the words she would find if she could read

she gathers water
like sounds in her head
she kneels
like a slave
in church
like a slave preparing to dance
in front of the pig house
she pretends
to be quiet
her mind is grinding
pissing in the evening meal

:: Sam Cornish, Sam’s World (1978)

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