Out to Dry in Cape Breton by Anita Lahey

Nan hesitates at the window, fingering
lace, humming her quiet history, cut-off
breast. She stares down the old grey  

laundry line out back, up the hill, swinging
low. Strong as ever. No use for a body
living on memories and bingo, sweetened 

Carnation’s in her tea. “Can’t get up
there no more,” she says. The dryer
crackles; crocheted slippers lose themselves 

over and over, drones in a cyclone.
Her bones fret in their thin socks, 
waiting. I take the camera with me. My eyes 

disrobe the island, gathering bodiless
material: hungry sleeves at White Point,
leggy denim flirting with daisies 

by a Louisbourg B&B. She’s dying,
I implore. Be still. Whispers slip
through buttonholes, hems. In Albert’s Bridge  

bath towels drop their pink jaws, trees
lean in to feel tenderness seep into
fog. A local asks, of me, my camera: “You  

don’t have clotheslines in Ontario?” Damn
mist on the lens. Some things take days
to dry. Nan’s tea-stained nightie, sock feet 

on torn linoleum, milky breath on glass—
all that dampness dreaming static. The line
out back, sighing, tied fast to its posts. 

 

Copyright © Anita Lahey. Originally published in Out to Dry in Cape Breton (Signal Editions, 2006).

 

Anita Lahey has published two poetry collections with Véhicule Press (Out to Dry in Cape Breton in 2006 and Spinning Side Kick in 2011) and, in 2013, The Mystery Shopping Cart: Essays on Poetry and Culture (Palimpsest). Series editor of the annual anthology Best Canadian Poetry and a former editor of Arc Poetry Magazine, Anita’s poetry has been shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and the Ottawa Book Award, while her magazine journalism has received several National Magazine Award honourable mentions. Her book The Last Surviving Goldfish: A Memoir of Friendship is forthcoming from Biblioasis.

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