A man survives by not giving up.
He sifts his doubt through the screen of night,
finds what there is to save, tries again.
I am a stalwart man.
She said she passed it on to me.
When she was small she’d kneel and pump
the grinding-wheel pedal by hand for her father,
blades riding the whirling stone
shooting stars into the shed’s attic.
I’ve only seen him in a picture,
a wiry stern-faced man standing in a field.
He taught her a strict practice;
shear once along the ewe’s belly,
keep the wool long for spinning.
In the evening, after the rosary’s
government of pleas and admonitions,
he showed her how to card the bundles,
draw order from confusion.
It is always a search for patterns;
observe, connect, risk, persist.
Urine for mordant, he boiled the wool
in dun hues, pots of burdock and beet-skin,
ocher-stained hands folded at dinner table.
When he lost his words, gave up,
she strung her nights on the loom’s heddle,
learned the solace of patterns,
left to marry a soldier,
passed on the old man’s taciturn ways.
The summer I quit school, a young woman
who’d walked those fields with me,
sent a table-loom by taxi to our house.
My mother had ridden in a taxi twice in her life
and couldn’t understand this way.
I took it with me, left for a cabin on the island,
worked a grunt’s shift on the sawmill’s green-chain.
Nights I tried to build order,
rigged cross-thatched colors on that loom,
spent my days stacking wet lumber
ran words through the huge roaring saw,
spun sounds until they braided into strands
hung on lines like wool dyed
and set to dry in fall’s low slanting sun.