Lyn Lifshin
POEMS
 
Hardly Anyone in my Family Could Sew


except my father who shortened pants customers
bought at Lazarus Dept Store noon times, even
afer he started with white pills under his tongue,
trudged up the apartment stairs, green baggy pants
for Robert Frost to wear wandering thru Main St.
My mother once made me a Spanish dancer's
costume but I don't remember her sewing anything
else. I tried to sew a hen on a skirt for a Christmas
pageant that unraveled, like so much would, on
stage. For Girl Scouts 20 of us had little squares
to sew into a patch work quilt. I preferred painting,
working on science projects with huge papier mache
models of the eye I filled with Vaseline and clear
glue. Or writing poems about the apple blossoms,
how dark moved in and I could almost smell it.
Sewing, like cooking, had too many rules. One aunt
tried to teach me to knit but I dropped stitches, awkward
as someone playing piano in padded gloves thick enough
for 50 below freezing. I no longer remember who made
the two afghans: blue for my mother, a rainbow one for
Nanny but it wasn't my mother. If a button broke, a
blouse would stay that way as if there never was time for
anything small or painstaking. I sewed the way I wrap a
gift: as if I slapped paper and tape together, running from
a burning room. You can see this today if you check out
my ballet slippers. There was no Singer machine, no small
girl toy version. My mother's button box just grew heavier.
None of us were good at following patterns. When I tried
to trace a tiny bathroom rug on a new square of pile, even
that was a disaster. Some think of sewing as relaxing as
yoga, almost like playing music, creative as cooking (some
thing else few in my family thrilled to). I love the sheen of
velvet, satin, taffeta, the nub of fleece and fur and how
light ripples over the thick wine and onyx fibers and I can
imagine a room of women stitching and weaving, gossiping
and sewing but could never see myself in those rooms


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