Poems by Devon Miller-Duggan and Cocoon by Abigail Doan

QUILT SQUARE FOR R. H.

I have not forgotten how to sew, or where to send to add you to
The Quilt. The velvet shirt I made you more than twenty years ago,
embroidered collar, ruffled cuffs–I could lay it flat, stitch it down.
I could draw, in threads, likenesses of your collected things: Ming
bowls, ladderback chairs, Regency portrait, Federal highboy,
Empire table. Your body turned on you.
I could have sewn a void–a scalloped square the size of an antique
embroidered handkerchief you bought to be my “something old,”
tucked in the waistband of my petticoat when I married. I’d have drawn
my lapis earrings in silk threads, the small black lacquer box, a disc
on which a man’s voice sings heartbroken songs by Schubert. I could
sew enough of your particulars into a square to make a picture someone
else could see and think you’d not been lost entire, that something of
your steady heart and restless mind remained as fabric, some trace
of how your hand felt laid in mine, so strangers seeing it could cry
specific tears for a specific man. Except, by doing so I’d make you be
among the public dead, your life sewn to a stranger’s life. I will not
blur your name into another name, your loss to any other. And I will cut
no gift from you or for you into parts. I will not lay them down, your
name, your things, your death, among so many that I might lose you again.

AFTER 40 YEARS OF BUSINESS, THE JOY TRIMMING CO. OF WILMINGTON, DELAWARE HAS CLOSED ITS DOORS

O, walls of ribbons—
satin to bind the ankles of ballerinas and waists of brides,
picot for spring hats, velvet for winter hats,
tartans for the brims of bonnets, jacquard, grosgrain, holiday prints;
O, buttons big enough that Audrey Hepburn might have had just one or two or four,
to clinch her coat by Givenchy, and mother-of-pearl buttons
small enough for christening gowns, Bakelite buttons for the fitted suits
of broads in Chandler novels, rhinestone buttons fit for Liberace, abalone,
horn, brass, pewter, bamboo, glass, and childrens’ fancies—
checkered, duck-shaped, hand-shaped, flowered, star and cloud-shaped buttons;
O, buckram, bodice boning, horsehair for hems, and china silk for linings;
O, threads in cotton, polyester, nylon, linen, rayon, silk;
O, needles for upholstery, shoes, doll-making, hats, or crewel;
O, folding scissors, pinking shears, tin snips, rolling cutters, leather punches,
dressmaking shears as long as forearms and forged from sword-grade steel;
O, white lace meant for virgins, black for widows, rainbow lace for clowns and girls;
O, sequins, rhinestones, crystals, pearls;
O, hooks-and-eyes in every size, grommets, snaps, and buckles;
O, measures, thimbles, threaders, rippers, pins;
Come to me, each and every. Come, at least, in memory,
called forth with gratitude. I name you.
Ivory lace around the linen collar–like a cavalier’s—on a velvet dress in bottle green.
Spools of satin cording, colored hemp, and leather I spun out and knotted into macramé.
The double-faced, white, four-inch satin ribbon on my wedding flowers;
O, solutions to a hundred minor puzzles, salvations for a hundred minor gaffs.
Whenever I prick my fingers, I’ll smudge the drops on seams and hidden stitches,
my fingers giving thanks in sting and gladness,
marking everything I sew in memory of your amplitude.

Both these poems are from Miller-Duggan’s book “Pinning the Bird to the Wall.”

***

Cocoon is a work in progress by fiber and installation artist Abigail Doan.

A Stitch in Time by Kathamann

A Stitch in Time

In tedium time

  pricked fingertips
      neck aches
      cramping fingers of arthritis
   upper back and shoulder soreness
        eyes refuse to focus

Stitches lost in herstory in leather               silk             wool            cotton
                         alpaca           glass buttons           elm bark                shells
                         beads            flax stalks             felt            feathers
                               pineapple fiber  raffia          quills          linen
                                  hemp             sequins         rawhide         agave leaf
                             coins            coral           silver          gold
                           stone            straw           bark            palm leaf
                              sheepskin        mirror          velvet          jute                 
                                  
Young girls learn to sew but not read or write
                    learn to stay immobile at home
                learn silence with heads down
                    learn crocheting
                             spinning
                             embroidery
                             tatting
                             weaving
            knitting
                             darning

Like spiders stitching a web, women get caught in it.
Their psyches sewn into every stitch to reinforce
their isolation and modesty.  Every stitch holding
together culture to celebrate in finery
                   to remove the ordinary
                  to impress others
              to please the gods
                      to identify tribe and geography

How often do they prick their fingertips on spinning
wheels; and become legend in fairy tales.
 
mantles
blouses
coats
shirts
dresses
tunics
vests
 
Sewing circles and quilting bees;  their humble answer
sanctioned by men folk.  Hours spent stitching vestments
for altars and priests at rites they would never officiate.

manuscript binders
      cushion cover
          tent hangings
                  prayer stone wrapper
                                   hammock
                                        quilt
                                                room divider
                                                       wall hanging
                                                                bed
                                                                       floor covering
                       
                                                                cradle cover
                                                    carrying cloth
                                          curtain
                                blanket
                            towel
                                       pouch
                bag      boot
                              mask    
               

“Women should never learn to sew, and if they do they
shouldn’t admit to it,” says Katherine to her lover in “The
English Patient” by Michael Ondaatji.

               m
                a
                     k      g  
                They would s
                             o      u
                             d      r g e o n s.