Whirlpool by George Bilgere
In the morning, after much delay,
I finally go down to the basement
to replace the broken dryer belt.
First I unbolt the panels
and sweep up the dust mice and crumbling spiders.
I listen to the sounds of the furnace
thinking things over
at the beginning of winter.
Then I stretch out on the concrete floor
with a flashlight in my mouth
to contemplate the mystery
of the pulley-tensioner assembly.
And finally, with a small, keen pleasure,
I slip the new belt over the spindle, rise,
and screw everything back together.
Later, we have a birthday dinner
for my wife's grandmother, who is dying
of bone cancer. Maybe,
if they dial up the chemo, fine tune the meds,
we'll do this again next year.
But she's old, and the cancer
seems to know what it's doing.
Everyone loves her broccoli casserole.
as for the cake, it sits on the table,
a small brown mountain we can't see beyond.
That night I empty the washer,
throw the damp clothes in the dryer.
For half an hour my wife's blouses
wrestle with my shirts
in a hot and whirling ecstasy,
because I replaced an ancient belt
and adjusted the pulley-tensioner assembly.
"Whirlpool" by George Bilgere. © George Bilgere. Reprinted with permission.