by Kathleen Ernst
Scraps of tatting, yellowed with age.
She found time a burden, I think,
the woman who wound thread tight
around her slender fingers;
that childless housewife cradling her shuttle,
silver and small, in her other hand.
As lonely hours knotted, day after day,
she twisted her dreams into neat loops of lace.
Hand-knit mittens, Norwegian styling.
She was homesick, I think,
the woman who knit these intricate patterns,
one on the back of hand, one on the palm;
that immigrant clicking her double-point needles,
minding the thumb gusset, minding the fit.
As she hid from the babble of English words
she summoned her own home with memories and wool.
Baby blanket, sewn from a flour sack.
She was worried, I think,
the pioneer woman who picked up her needle
with roughened fingers, and leaned toward the fire;
that gaunt young mother, threading her needle,
straining to see with smoke-squint eyes.
As the white wolves of winter loped toward her soddy
she stitched her fear into faded cloth.
Tatted and knitted, quilted and sewn.
It was handwork, I think, that kept them going
over vast ocean, prairie, and plain –
basting together scraps of their dreams,
knitting new lives, knotting new hopes.
Women unknowingly seamed together,
finding comfort in cadence and color,
finding solace, each on her own.
-originally appeared in Fox Cry Review, September, 2008