wordsout by Godfrey Rust                                     BREAKING THE CHAINS 4 of 61  The place where socks go    HOME

Household Mysteries Solved: The Missing Sock

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 rewrites before it was finished as above in 1988.

Godfrey Rust, godfrey@wordsout.co.uk. See here for details of permissions for use.