wordsout by godfrey rust
BREAKING THE CHAINS  < 4 of 61 >  < lent >

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The place where socks go

There's a place where socks go
     when the washing is done
when the driers have dried
     and the spinners have spun
when it's past eight o'clock
    and there's no one about
and the launderette's locked—
      then the odd socks come out.

There is hosiery here
     of each pattern and hue,
some plain, striped or spotted,
     some black, red or blue,
some worn only once,
    some so old they have formed
to exactly the shape
    of the foot they once warmed.

Some were brought back from Sock Shops
    in airports in France,
some were hideous presents
    from matronly aunts,
but in all their variety
    one thing is shared—
to the place where socks go
    they will not go pre-paired.

Then the odd socks remaining
    are placed in the chest
(they must turn up sometime—
    now where was that vest?)
and new socks come at Christmas
    and birthdays bring more
and the old lie, alone,
    at the back of the drawer.

And maybe, one evening
    when memory is low,
they too slip away
    to the place where socks go
and in silent reunion,
    each one with its pair,
they join in the dance
    with the other things there—

the letters unanswered,
    the calls not returned,
the promises broken,
    the lessons not learned,
the lost afternoons,
    the appointments unmade,
the best of intentions,
    the debts never paid,

and the friends not kept up
    and the others let down—
in the ragbag of conscience
    they waltz sadly round
beyond the respite
    of the washing machine,
no amount of detergent
    can now get them clean

till that day when all laundry
    is washed white as snow,
and everyone's tumbled
    and soft soap must go,
when nothing is hidden
    but all is revealed
and socks shall be holy
    and souls shall be healed.

The first version was written in a laundrette in Stamford Hill, London in 1981. There were various changes made before it was completed as above in 1988.

Godfrey Rust 1981, 1988, godfrey@wordsout.co.uk. See here for permissions.