Mar 16, 2018

Today’s poem is “Sewing” by Marianne Boruch. Marianne is the author of ten books of poetry, most recently Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing, two collections of essays and a memoir. She directs the graduate writing program at Purdue University. In the 1980s she taught at the University of Maine at Farmington, and wrote this poem in Maine.

She writes, “…I was thinking a lot about the various orbits of a family household: shared bedrooms, warring siblings, the continuing noise until sleep, the sound of my mother sewing something in a distant room, up hours longer, working too hard when it was so much easier not to. Just the mundane mystery of all that, and a certain generosity as default. My own boy was still a boy, and I guess I was juggling things myself.

But really, it was the vivid recall of those pajamas my mother made for my brother and me--little umbrellas on them, or pirates, or whatever. What I like about the poem now is not the longing or some simple nostalgia. Just the hard bite of it. My mother could have flew, but didn't.

by Marianne Boruch

My mother was sewing pajamas for us, always,
and curtains for the window
to sleep in. At night she pulled them loose
agains the wide backyard where the dog
roamed from plum tree to willow, where
the hammock hung in the shade.

But all of it was shade at night
except the moon’s full face.
Small umbrellas on my flannel, small
pirates on my brother’s as if in dreams
it rained too much and enough ships docked there
for a whole childhood’s worth of thieves.

Years, the same room, the same window.
My brother’s bed there and my bed there.
And arguments between us like a wheel
turned to make the other go,
as though one engine.

In the dark, I heard her sewing. Each stitch
a splinter put back and back so rapidly.
Not song exactly. Not pain.
It’s the little wizard wayward spool I still
think about, high
and quick—the way it almost
flew, but turned to make and make.

Poem copyright © 2004 Marianne Boruch.
Reprinted from Poems New and Selected
Oberlin College Press, 2004
by permission of Marianne Boruch.