The Hospital Lift
The Virgin was spiralling to heaven,
Hauled up in stages. Past mist and shining
--Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, “Fireman’s Lift”
My mother is the aged Queen of the spin
of washing machines. Her body sags now
but when she was young eyed and toned
she washed St. Andrew’s Children’s Hospital,
whose best feature was its ancient lift.
I would close the iron grille with a clang,
thump the big black top button, grow up
watching the floors drop to my feet,
the bowl that glowed in underwater green
the babies crying, startled by the light
in blue gowns the kids chasing the clown
the professional look of clean white smocks
before arriving on the roof, the air
smelling of detergent, wind and sun,
the sheets flapping like giant birds.
When my mother turned to greet me
with a tight smile (now loosening indefinitely),
how was I to guess the magic act
of hauling up an ancient lift
by spinning modern washing machines?