Alexandra Strnad – Two poems

The Washing Tree

Here linens are strung in pairs to blanch, white
lead to wet chalk, and shirts bear the ghosts

of arms, empty cuffs opening like crocus heads
in spring, a frangipani offers branches – a waiter

balancing tea or silver service on wrists
scalded smooth by the grate of thin-wire hangers,

two tortoiseshells sleep in turquoise shade, lazy
under leaves of pastel cottons, a red dress

faded pink, olive chinos slack about the waist,
and when she brings a basket, gathers

these sun-dried fruits, their fibres throw dusts
of citrus and mimosa rinsing each thread

anew, first in milky buckets on the stoep,
then a second scouring in the veld’s wildflower

breeze, tincture of dark gulleys, Drakensberg
meadow-stars, watsonias, gladioli, arum lilies

that leave the lungs laundered of stain and tarnish
the mind raw, stiff starched, neatly folded.



We left early that morning, looking for blood warmth,
sugar beet fields, pedals and crankset muttering

under the weight of two, the grass on the green anointed
with chrism: a snowdrift of blossom heaped and greying

like a paint water jar,
__________________past booksellers buried in dust-jacket
towers and vellum, fishmongers cocooning rainbow trout

in shallow scrapes of ice, through bell tolls from St Mary
the Great and St Mary the Less, to the small reserve

they call Paradise – washed in willow, butterbur,
the blue wink damselfly:
____________________ a girl could float like a leaf

on this diet of spinneys, wood-smoke, summer, or dance
behind a laurel hedge and thicket,
___________________________as I once did for a boy.


Alexandra read for her BA in English at Cambridge, and an MSt from Oxford in Creative Writing. She won the Jane Martin Poetry Prize (2014), and the Parallel Universe Poetry Competition (2016). Widely published, she is poet in residence at Carfax Education.