Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Poetry Moment: 'Washer & Dryer' by Heather McNaugher

Poet Heather McNaugher
Poet Heather McNaugher

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.

This episode’s poem is “Washer & Dryer” by Heather McNaugher.

Heather McNaugher teaches literature and writing at her alma mater, Chatham University in Pittsburgh, where she is the nonfiction editor for the journal Fourth River. She is the author of Second-order Desire and System of Hideouts, as well as two poetry chapbooks, Panic & Joy and Double Life. Her collection, States of Emergency, won the 2021 Southern Humanities Review Editors’ Chapbook Prize for Fiction. She’s lived in Seattle and Brooklyn and received her Ph.D. in English from The State University of New York at Binghamton. A nostalgic librarian, she once worked for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where you can find her on a near daily basis wandering among the novels.

Our lives are made up of daily events that might seem innocuous and mundane: doing the dishes, sweeping the floors, cleaning the bathroom. But how does gender play a role in the mundane? Are such daily events as innocuous as some might like to believe? In today’s poem, the speaker who is a woman has prepared for a new washer and dryer to be delivered, a luxury she looks forward to. But when the workmen arrive, carrying the machines into the house, she finds herself mentioning the name of a brother, imagining a boyfriend or husband in the military who she’ll say is returning this afternoon from Afghanistan, all in an attempt to allay her fears, to protect herself from possible harm.


Washer & Dryer

Today the washer & dryer arrive.

You’ve spent the week preparing the area

like it’s a nursery.

The delivery guys are on the friendly side.

You drop the steely name of your brother, but stop

at a boyfriend or husband, who, if it comes to that,

returns this afternoon from Afghanistan

in time for the game.

It never gets that far.

Except in your head, where it is always

exactly that far.

After they go, you stand in your basement and preside

over your first washer & dryer

in your first house.

Later, you’ll wander down, again and again

to gaze at your washer & dryer,

gleaming white and waiting.

But nothing shakes it.

You’re a woman

home alone.

That was “Washer & Dryer” by Heather McNaugher.

Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at

With Poetry Moment on WPSU, I’m Todd Davis.

Music by Eric Ian Farmer.

Thank you for sharing this moment of poetry with me today.

Todd Davis is the 2022-23 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.