Women’s Work by Jude Rittenhouse


“Women’s Work” by Jude Rittenhouse


I am ironing.
Mother said that, when I was a baby,
I watched her iron. Hour
after hour. In the 1950’s, women
pressed dresses, napkins, stacks
of men’s white shirts, even sheets. My eyes
followed her hands, back and forth, endlessly
smoothing life’s wrinkles and creases.
All of my adult life, I have hated ironing. Now,

I am ironing.
Another woman friend has learned:
cancer. The fifth in a steady stream, as if a dam
above us no longer holds back anything.
As if birthing, washing, stroking, hoping,
smoothing, folding, healing, holding
and unceasing releasing
have worn out something. Have used up
the last of our magic.

I am ironing.
Back and forth with a vengeance. Pushing
down hard. Concentrating beyond damp cotton,
beneath where hands can feel or eyes can see.
Pressing toward what women
have known and done
for centuries of centuries: making
miracles. Smoothing mistakes. Starting
again. Creating.



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Jude Rittenhouse Artist Statement:

Jude Rittenhouse received a Writers Grant from the Vermont Studio Center, a Women Making History
Award, a Visionary Award, and was founding co-editor for the feminist literary magazine Moon
Journal (1995–2008; archived at Smith College). Her poems have won awards from Glimmer Train Press
and Poets & Patrons of Chicago and have been finalists for the Pablo Neruda Award and Tiferet Poetry
Prize. Her work has been published in many literary magazines and anthologies, including Nimrod
International Journal; Tiferet: Literature, Art, & The Creative Spirit; Dove Tales: An International
Journal of the Arts; Her Mark 2005 (Woman Made Gallery, 2005); and The Kali Guide: A Directory of
Resources for Women (Zenprint, 2002), among others.

For over twenty years, Ms. Rittenhouse has taught writing workshops and been a speaker at conferences,
retreats, schools, and other learning centers. She works with clients in private practice at Integrated
Healing Services, Westerly, RI.


Author: A Room of Her Own

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