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from the September 2006 issue

Counted Threads

She knew she had the threads counted,
oriented from top to bottom, with precision
Some mutilated, already frayed, even to the edge
stooped and sightless in her rocker my grandmother would say,
tearing them out with her fingernails one by one,
the threads in her hem.
"I count the hours like days so now
the edge will be complete,
no more left for me."
Her days slowed toward stasis when she wasn't fingering them.

Thread of divinity, devil or desperation
passing also in a row, the carts, the oxen
"and they set down some boxes tied with cords that held
I suppose all the clothing of some family
seeking fortune or shelter . . . "
This is how I saw my grandmother fray her past in her skirt.
The skirt of a coarse gray cloth
and the white nightdress, embroidered.
Underneath them, nothing.
The Carmelite chair with great wings next to the mirror
and the marble pedestal that still supported her.

Unhurried she would lower her hand from the pedestal
and stretch the scalloped trim to pull another day from pain.
The boxes remained in the corner of the room, piling up.
Shelter without fortune or stains, maybe purples
that lived longer and longer between my grandmother's hands
through betrayal, through losses.
They didn't even shake when the cross of threads, advancing,
went errant for a few seconds, nearly contorted,
and our panic intensifying.
Thanks to her patience in unwinding
(more specifically she told us "unraveling")
her patience in removing some however many stitches gained and lost
at the rotted corner of a cloth
we bear it, the edge.


Read more from the September 2006 issue
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