Under the abiding lamp, appearances and disappearances;
the needle shines: up through the billow of pale hydrangea,
back down into daphne,
small strawberry blossoms,
beneath the fragile green.
This fine cotton is tired and thin.
Each time I wear the blouse the strain pulls at the twilit wild rose
and morning glories fray along their immaculate edges.
You brought the Liberty cotton home
from your year at the Sorbonne, folded sharp-cornered
like handkerchiefs in your suitcase, to make each of us a blouse.
You spread the flawless cloth out on the table,
a rustle as you pinned the tissue pattern pieces down.
Yours also floral, warm-hued with slight yellows.
Mine was this fluctuation of lavender, half-sky and green
with a deep blue intruding from the background like a stain, an
You told me then as the shears hissed
how one evening in the cafe you'd tried to ask a man
when the Eiffel Tower's lights might come on. A quelle heure
la tour s'allume? you'd said.
When would it be lit on fire?
This was long before we knew of danger,
of the small and tragic shifts in innocence and ignorance.
The pattern was easy to follow;
the pins shone, a cheerful path into the light.
. . .
The light shines in the eye of the needle I thread once again
to mend the frail seams ill-worn by a day's reaching.
I begin near the shoulder seam, the dark blue here
like a shadow, like midnight.
The lamp illuminates the patient stitches,
loops of purple thread, a collar pressed still
to its precise and thoughtful point.
You were sewing one afternoon--lost in a daydream--
needles and pins sharp from your mouth like a fish's whiskers.
When you swallowed one
we made jokes about how for eternity
you'd set off airport security systems.
We were afraid.
The doctor never found the needle on the X ray.
At any time it could, like some shimmering pickerel, swim
through you, right to your heart.
But it disappeared in a cushion of tissue.
This morning you mentioned the calm, the woman
putting one hundred needles in your skin.
To help the grief...