A WASHING MACHINE AT THE END OF THE WORLD

 

Nothing of importance occurred here, and nothing much of interest, for everybody was wealthy and flourishing.

   Lady Anne Barnard, Journal of a Tour into the Interior, 1798.

 

Several of the photographic spreads

Covering Blyvooruitzicht's overnight sensation

Feature it:

A washing machine

Poised inches from the edge of the half-house

Not taken by the `sinkholegrave'

Which swallowed whole three others,

One complete with a family of five.

 

This is no subject for the romantic gesture,

Where the earth now, say, like Pringle's sea once,

`Howls for the progeny she nurst,

To swallow them again';

Neither is it cool-blue modern urban stuff

Of Unreal Cities and, say, the buried blooming.

No, this is the place where Viv's ‘Wonderful’

(‘My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad')

Becomes Ezra's `Photography?'

Where the camera captures a cross-section

Of the ordinary.

The surgery of catastrophe strips away

The invisibility of the familiar,

And the home dissected reveals

For social analysis

The square, enamelled, churning heart

Of our domestic fantasies.

 

This is why,

Despite Lady Anne's epitaph

For the whole history

Of the middle class,

A family of five

In a hole interests us far more

Than a crusher-crew of twenty nine

Or any number of other more spectacular

Displays of disaster

Involving soldiers, sailors,

Policemen, firemen  -                                                                   Workers...

 

It's that damn washing machine that worries us,

So similar to the ones nestled

In our own kitchens or             laundries,

Solid consumers of our soiling natures,

Safe as houses.