Terri on Swing
Thread Count
for my mother
by Terri Kirby Erickson

My mother hung wet sheets to dry from a rope
that stretched between two poles in our backyard,
her motions smooth and rhythmic as a synchronized
swimmer. She stooped and straightened again
and again, her hands moving across the line faster
than squirrels on telephone wire.

From my perch on the swing, I watched her work—
pumping my legs until I touched puffy
white clouds with the toes of my shoes, the squeak

of the metal chain steady as a metronome.
My body felt light as dandelion seeds, floating.
Higher and higher I swung, until it seemed
I was a kite soaring on the end

of a string. I slung my head back and let
my hair trail in the dirt, closing my eyes
so the sensation in my belly was like the swift

descent of an elevator in a tall building. The sun
felt like warm maple syrup dripping on my
face, and the air smelled of honeysuckle and bacon
grease in glass jars sitting on the window

sill. I opened my eyes as my mother lifted
the last sheet from the pile, with light illuminating
the threads like the hours in a child’s summer day,
too many to count.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a child enjoying her backyard swing set.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While writing this poem, I opened a portal to my past the only way I can, through my memory of it and the words that come to me when I go back and visit my childhood. Nothing is perfect, of course, but my life with my parents and my little brother in the early sixties, was as close as it gets. My brother is gone now, but I still have both my wonderful parents. This poem is a favorite of my mother’s, who is as beautiful and kind at 77 as she was when I was a little girl, four years old, who thought I was the luckiest kid in the world to have an angel for a mother and a swing set in my backyard.

TerriSalemReadingOct2014

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of four collections of poetry, including her latest book, A Lake of Light and Clouds (Press 53, 2014). Among her many awards are the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, a Nautilus Silver Book Award, and the Poetry for their Freedom Award. Her poetry is forthcoming or has been published in the 2013 Poet’s Market, The Writer’s Almanac, American Life in Poetry, North Carolina Literary Review, Verse Daily, Cutthroat, Asheville Poetry Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and numerous others. For more information about her work, please visit www.terrikirbyerickson.com.