“Threads” and other poems by Sara Mullen

 

Threads

Not long ago
we were wearing
our neighbourhood’s
pass-along clothes.

Dirndl skirts, duffel
coats, old dungarees
did the rounds
of our townland.

Two hills away,
fourth or so cousins
broke in new blouses
and pinafores.

Their jumpers next
on the boys up the road;
mine for a time
the following year.

A spell awhile
with second cousins
then back in time
to fit my sisters.

Mothers knitting,
prodding, stitching love
and themselves into
raiments we wore.

Fibres of us
in the cotton, the wool,
spores of our summers,
the thorns and burrs

of our everyday;
secrets too, silently
absorbed like
melting snowflakes.

Knots of us
trailing to school
in our communal
stitches and threads,

hawthorn blossom
on our shoulders,
catchweed clamped
to our backs.

Gossamer skeins
of blood between us,
but our clothes
bound us thicker.

We nod now
from cars as
we pass on the roads
we used to tramp.

At the back of a press
the odd little giobal
discovered, unfolded,
held up to a face.

 


Dresden Plates

My fingertips scan
the stitches, read
their finesse:

the fleet needle
drawn along, dabbing
at fabric with tiny teeth.

Imagine her window
in Maple Street, the
sun and snowlight.

Salt bags, their
seams unpicked:
unfolded fields,

cream cotton
plains of possibility
and she the pioneer.

Dresden Plates, like
smashed china deftly
mismatched,

but in patchwork;
scraps harvested
from flour sacks,

exhausted blouses,
superannuated
summer frocks.

Judicious snippings,
her eye, her hand,
assessing, sorting

her derelict miscellany
assembled for
new adventure:

sepia daisies pop
petals; bunches
of cherry powder puffs;

bleach-clouds scud
on blue; faded chocolate
forget-me-nots,

grids of viridian green
on white; frogspawn
in a crimson pond,

polka dots dense on
gingerbread, spaced
out on a midnight blue.

Pieced in rounds
of seventeen, thirty
scalloped circles.

Chicago rises past
her contemplations
as she crafts

this bedspread that
comes home at last
in her stead.

 


Little Bird

A little bird
told her,
she told me,

I’d been
playing by
the railway.

It told her
too, that other
time, of my

climbing
on building
site lime.

Skinny-malinks!
Word among
the birds:

Some little
girl wasn’t
eating.

Tap on nose,
her last word
a little bird

and her laugh
light and
mocking.

In cahoots
with feathered
familiars,

her charm
drawing
them down

from trees
and skies,
telephone wires.

What little bird
had its eye
on me?

Was it a
dickie bird?
Peter? Paul?

Or Robin
Redbreast?
Jenny Wren

cheeping
tidbits in her
cocked ear?

A cartoon
television
bluebird

officiously
flitting
about her

with the
low-down
on us all?

What had her
so quiet
that night

at the table?
had some bird
been and

flown, left
her with
that news

she’d
keep,
alone?

 


Kimberley Road

Joe asleep in the kitchen smiles in a dream
gleaned from two months here and the previous nine.
Out on the wall-top, next door’s Bengal queen

purls her subtle way; planes above her gleam
in apricot skies, contrails swell and decline.
Joe asleep in the kitchen smiles in a dream.

From behind the garden shed fox kits teem,
Tumbling together beneath the washing line
Up on the wall-top, next door’s Bengal queen

steps into the depths of a cypress screen.
Fox kits disappear at their mother’s sign.
Joe asleep in the kitchen smiles in a dream.

Wending solemnly west, the clouds convene
and early evening stars begin to shine.
Joe asleep in the kitchen smiles in a dream,
out on the wall-top, next door’s Bengal queen.

 


White

You sewed it
together in Sonna,

the bridal
trousseau

now folded away
like your true age.

Cotton oblongs,
linen squares.

Sister-stitched
handkerchief:

tears dried-in
on the sea air,

waving her off
on her resolute way.

Far apart now,
never more

the quiet roads,
you minding her.

Small hand in
yours, her outlook

broadening ever
beyond your scope.

Letters from her
hand to yours

cross an ocean,
read, folded away.

Yours: nine sons,
daughters two:

For all her
enterprise,

no-one,
only you,

the lighthouse
to her star.

Threads and other poems © Sara Mullen