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
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.