Zeny Giles, Two poems

The Training

Thia Maria and my mother
used to spy on
the washing lines of neighbours.

Their own standards
hard to meet.

Towel with towel
shirt with shirt
underwear hidden
behind outstretched sheets.

Ti plissimo! they would whisper
at a stained cloth
or a ragged row of underpants
shaking their heads
at such blatant disorder.


I would not have passed their test.

My clothes are hung out
as they come
but I’ve inherited
a remnant of their fussiness.

Each item
must be shaken
and shaken hard again.

No caught-up sleeves
or wrinkly hems
in my wash.


Yiayia Zenoka

taught me the art of folding.

She came from her Cypriot village
when she was seventy
to live with us in Sydney.

Like my father
she had a slight tremble
yet my grandmother’s determined hands
could smooth the clothes so thoroughly
there was no need for ironing.


Aussie Love Song

You use a rigorous design
when you hang washing on our line

with careful choice of matching pegs
on nighties and pyjama legs

on underpants and matching socks
on sheets and towels and summer frocks

on serviettes and business shirts
on tablecloths and coloured skirts

until each pair with colours chiming
becomes a couplet newly-rhyming

and our Hills Hoist in secrecy
declares your latest verse to me.

*From “Parables”, Owl Publishing, Melbourne 2017.

**Η Zeny Giles είναι Ελληνοαυστραλή ποιήτρια και συγγραφέας με καταγωγή γονέων από την Κύπρο και το Καστελόριζο. Έχει εκδώσει επτά βιβλία, ποιήματα και νουβέλες. Διαμένει στο Σίδνεϊ.

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