james mcgonigal
Poet  •  Critic

Contact  James McGonigal

       Washing Lines


Evening; and sunset spills
its cup of juices
down the sky’s blue chin.
I take the washing in,
unpegging scents of air and grain
in blouses, shorts, folded away
to breathe on children’s skins: familiar
effort, intimate and everyday.

Long days to bleach our pillows clean
of sweat-stains and tears.
August bakes damp feathers dry
still they won’t fly.
Take them in too. It’s time to fall
asleep at last.
Moth wings round a cooling lamp
beat for their vanished past.



Ms Mona Lisa with her head thrown back –
new upstairs neighbour with a laugh so fierce
it cracks her floorboards and my cornices.

She loves entertaining friends.
She can cook up a storm.
Tonight it’s Guffaw Flambé with crudités
serving 8 till late
from the genial dish of her face.

At weekends it’s hung-over hellos
on the communal drying green.
We peg out pyjamas on separate lines
and leave them doubled over there
tears of laughter helplessly
dripping from each sleeve.



Wet garmentsthe weight in them.
She carries her basket out into
midsummergrandchildren’s clothes.

                     Did you see the sun
                     hanging above the Campsie Fells
                     an hour before midnight?

Holiday shirts and jerseys shaken into light.
It’s best to persevere but oh, with bent shoulders
and hands that dip and rise

to a breeze that lets everything go.

Click on the poem title to read the next excerpted poem from The Camphill Wren.