The Pattern

I remember those evenings
when it was all action in the kitchen,
my mam and Aunt Angela
clearing away everything
then laying out a stretch of cloth
on the clean, wiped surface of the table.

Then they placed a piece of pattern
across the fabric, which looked like
grease-proof paper only covered in lines
(and to my child’s eye like some kind of
schematic for a rocket or aeroplane)
as my mam followed the contours

with a white waxy chalk making marks
on the cloth before cutting carefully
along the dashed outline, each piece
in turn laid out across a chair, the shape
of a dress beginning to take form for
some neighbour or relative or friend.

I could never bear to watch though, when
all the parts had been gathered up
and my mam took to the sewing machine,
the needle hammering down so close
to her fingers that it scared me senseless,
she passing the fabric casually beneath it

without missing a stitch until
the dress was complete and a fitting
was finally arranged – my mam
with pins in her mouth as she adjusted
the bust-line or hem, her work nearly done…
Tonight, I sit at another machine

and try weave a pattern for you, Mother,
these lines like those pieces of cloth laid out
and marked, then brought together
with the same patience and care (I hope)
as the dresses you made in this house,
to make a gown for you of words

that you may wear some cold winter
evening when your work is done
and the sewing machine stilled – that
we may know each other
through such patterns made, the lines
of our lives connected like fine thread

and cloth, brought together finally
after years grown apart and the shared
understanding of our chosen crafts.

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