Banner Image
Illustration by Rosie Handley

Doing Laundry on New Year’s Day

A poem by Toby Fitch.

So this is how it starts, again,
the sun a big drum, wind rattling the gutters,
waves churning our linen off the coast.

What was stillness overnight, now nothing’s not moving
in the garden: frangipanis spin-dry damp pants,
boxers pegged to the clothesline

above the pebblecrete where our dying dog Minky
chugs from her bowl. A Pale View of Hills,
which I’ve been meaning to read,

flips about on our paint-stained wooden table,
bleaching my thoughts as drowned bees
are propelled across the surface of the neighbours’ pool,

the roses’ pink frocks explode, rosellas and corellas
flock to our shuddering rug of grass
like fast-flying socks

and a leaf, unclipped from a red gum, is twisted
up into the revolving sky, the dirge of the banana trees’
green sleeves bunting away at kids unravelling

their tongues to rainbowed ice.
Inside, my daughters in their Christmas blues
roil their hands around in a large yellow

Lego head like they might clean
each little piece of its fragmented brain
if only they had foam and water.

And it’s here I lose my head, forget
the incoming storm, where before I’d reckoned
I shouldn’t have to wait long today,

conflating that with our not having long to wait
for the churning comet from whatever movie we watched
last night to wash waves over all we think

still needs doing, and later
for the twinkling frangipanis, moving imperceptibly,
to shine down pink and white.

Illustration by Rosie Handley
Illustration by Rosie Handley

Toby Fitch is poetry editor of Overland and a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Sydney. His most recent book of poems is Sydney Spleen (Giramondo, 2021).

This poem appears in Openbook autumn 2022.

Related Stories

Magazine cover Openbook autumn 2024


Openbook is for people who love to read.

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina. Photo by Alamy On

On literary merit

Kerryn Goldsworthy

We may find it easy to give a book one star, or five, but what do we really mean by the phrase ‘literary merit’?

Eating at the Peking Garden restaurant, located inside the Central Coast Leagues Club, Gosford. Photo by Joy Lai

Sweet and sour

Annie Tong

Steamed, stir-fried or roasted, Chinese food in Australia has a long and evolving history.

Poet Allen Ginsberg sings for University of NSW students on the Library Lawn. Photo by Anton Cermak/Sydney Morning Herald

Allen Ginsberg in Australia

Barnaby Smith

Fifty years ago, the Beat poet and living symbol of the counterculture toured Australia, during a time of personal, spiritual and political awakening.