Sheri Vandermolen served, for fifteen years, as editor in chief of Time Being Books, an independent publishing company based in the United States. Her projects have included overseeing the archives for and compilation of The Complete Poems of Louis Daniel Brodsky (a series that comprises verse spanning five decades) and managing four collected-works editions. She has also facilitated the publication of dozens of individual poetry and short-fiction volumes.
She graduated summa cum laude, with Phi Kappa Phi academic honors, in 1990, and relocated to India in 2008. A six-year resident of Bangalore, she is currently composing and shaping the text Jasmine Fractals: Poems of Urban India. Her verse pieces have been published in various international literary journals and anthologies, including Earthen Lamp Journal, Muse India, and Veils, Halos and Shackles (edited by Dr. Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay).
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Dhobi Ghats of Malleswaram
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Zipping to the curb,
he parks and hops off his motorbike.
He removes his precious-stone rings
and locks them inside a small metal box
stowed beneath the seat,
before ambling to his morning’s work.
Shooing away a stray dog
nestled atop the dawn delivery,
he assays color-sorted heaps
of stained aprons, tablecloths, napkins, bedsheets,
maculate blankets, clothing miscellany,
then tucks a bundle of surgical scrubs
under his sinewy right forearm
and steps, thigh-deep, into the opaque water,
his profoundly veined hands
plunging the bubble-belching load below the surface
as he grabs a pair of royal-blue pants to thrash.
Twice more, the tedious flagellation,
before he pins the piece on a thick-braided clothesline
supported by crossed eucalyptus branches.
Mound after soiled mound diminishes.
He wipes away residual exhaustion
dripping from jaw to collarbone
and shakes off his wife’s recent complaints
about shifting to a better house —
her stabbing pleas for stable electricity, water supply,
for the sake of their two children.
Instead, he concentrates on the flat satisfaction
that comes with each pile’s culmination,
his grasping toes collecting more calluses
as he climbs higher up the ghat,
tracing stair-stepping ropes
strung hundreds of meters across the slope.
Finally, before breaking for chai —
a chance to close his eyes,
let his churnings slide down the cerebral drain —
he takes a heavy, freshly washed blanket
and places it in a centrifuge,
heaving himself onto the handle,
spinning it time and again,
to ensure the thick fleece will require
few brusque hours in the piercing sun.
Only, those rays can’t penetrate
the burdens looming in his thoughts,
as he steps inside the ghat’s corrugated shed,
inspects the giant mouths
of recently installed commercial dryers,
in which, soon, the daily loads
will tumble with his old-fashioned labor.